Frequently Asked Questions about Paternity
Q. Should parents establish paternity if they are getting along and the father is helping support the child?
A. Yes. Even if the father agrees to help support the child now, he may change his mind, become disabled or even unexpectedly die. In some cases, unmarried parents can get government benefits only if paternity is established.
Q. What if a mother is receiving or wants to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits?
A. Federal and state law requires a mother applying for or receiving TANF to cooperate with the Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) by naming a father. For further information, contact the nearest Department of Health and Human Services TANF Office listed in your phone book.
Q. What if a minor (under age 18) wants to sign an Acknowledgement Of Paternity (AOP) form?
A. In Maine there is no age restriction for signing an AOP.
Q. What if a mother feels it is not safe for her and/or her child to reveal the name of the father?
A. The "good cause" exceptions for domestic abuse/violence, incest and rape are clear. Naming the father is not required if there is documented evidence that a mother and/or child could be harmed in any way. For further information, contact a hospital social worker, your local family violence shelter, or any Department of Health and Human Services TANF Office.
Q. Does signing a voluntary AOP form establish any custody or visitation rights?
A. No. These can only be established by a court order.
Q. What if the father does not believe a child is his?
A. The father should seek genetic testing on his own or he and the mother should contact a DSER Office and they will help arrange for a paternity test. The test will determine whether the man is the father.
Q. Are there any options available if only one parent wants to sign a voluntary AOP?
A. Yes, there are two options.
1. Either parent may choose to go to court for legal paternity establishment, or
2. The mother may open a case with the Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) Office. DSER may refer the case to court for legal paternity establishment, which may include genetic paternity testing.
Q. What if the father or mother thinks the pregnancy was an accident or they did not want the child?
A. Both parents are responsible for financially and emotionally supporting their children, even if the pregnancy was not planned. They should complete a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form as soon as the child is born.
Q. How long after a child is born can paternity be established?
A. In Maine, there is no age or time limit when a voluntary AOP can be signed. However, after two years, the AOP may not be challenged.
Q. If a woman has her baby at home with a midwife, how do parents sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity?
A. Midwives are responsible for sending the necessary birth information to the municipal clerk's office in the town where the baby was born within fourteen days after the birth. After this information is sent to the municipal clerk, the parents can complete the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form at the clerk's office. The clerk is authorized to notarize the form.
Q. If unwed parents happily live together, should they sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity?
A. Yes. Unmarried parents need to sign a voluntary AOP form in order to provide a legal father for and protect the rights of their child.
Q. What last name can be given to a child?
A. A child can be given any last name, even if paternity has not been established. After the birth papers have been signed, only a court order can change a last name. Name corrections, such as spelling errors, can be made by contacting the municipal clerk in the city or town where the child was born or the Maine Office of Vital Records.
Q. If a mother or father live in another state or country, can paternity be established?
A. Yes. States and some countries work together to establish paternity. The Maine mother or father should contact their local municipal clerk to sign and notarize their page of the voluntary AOP form. Then the parent should send the form to the out-of-state/country parent for their signature and notarization. The completed voluntary AOP form should be sent back to either the municipal clerk in Maine or the Maine Office of Vital Records.
Q. Why should paternity be established, if a mother is planning to marry another man who is going to adopt the child?
A. Marriage and adoption plans sometimes fall through. In the meantime, your child is entitled to support and legal benefits from both parents. In addition, having the biological father's name documented on a voluntary AOP form may provide availability of medical information which, in the future, could save a child or grown child's life.
Q. How can parents establish paternity for their older child(ren)?
A. In Maine, paternity can be established at any time. It is just as important for older children to have paternity established as it is for babies.
Q. Where can parents get a legal certified copy of their child's birth certificate?
A. Contact the Maine Office of Vital Records or the municipal office at the place of birth or residence of the mother. A fee is charged.
Q. Is information regarding parentage confidential?
A. The laws of Maine and the rules of the Maine Office of Vital Records protect all paternity acknowledgment, adoption and birth certificate information on a child. Local municipal clerk's offices and hospitals have the same privacy rules and will protect this information. Only the mother, child and child's father (if his name is on the birth record) may get copies of the birth certificate.
Q. Whose name is placed on the birth record?
A. This will depend on whether the parents were married to one another at the time of the child’s conception, during the pregnancy or at the time of birth, but in general:
1. If the parents were married to one another at or up to 10 months before the birth of the child, the mother’s name and the mother’s spouse’s name will be entered on the birth record, unless a Court orders otherwise
2. If the parents were not married to one another at or up to 10 months before birth, and both parents voluntarily sign a AOP form before a notary, those names will be placed on the birth record.
3. For other situations, such as when a gestational carrier is used or a Court makes a paternity designation, see 22 M.R.S. § 2761 (3A and 4).