Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) definition

If you want to be recognized as the biological and legal father of a child (especially if the mother and you are unmarried) and your baby is already born, you may want to take steps to sign the acknowledgement of paternity form.

Not everyone has to sign one and not everyone can. Keep reading to find out what the AOP process entails.

What Is the Acknowledgment of Paternity?

The AOP is an important and legal document used to establish biological parentage of a child — specifically, paternity — in the U.S. and has important implications. It affects and/or determines:

  • The child’s birth certificate
  • The child’s rights
  • The parents’ rights
  • The parents’ responsibilities

The AOP must be signed voluntarily by both parents in order to be considered valid. It effectively recognizes the child’s legal father.

When Should You Sign the AOP?

The acknowledgment of paternity can only be signed and considered valid if:

  • The child is already born
  • The mother is unmarried and was unmarried during the pregnancy
  • There are no doubts regarding the child’s paternity

The AOP is often completed and signed at the hospital or facility where the child is born. The effective date of the AOP will eventually be the one when it is filed with the local registrar.

Some states allow parents to sign the AOP before the child is born. However, it will only become valid once the birth has occurred.

How to Register an Acknowledgement of Paternity

If you sign the AOP at the hospital, the completed form is usually filed for you with the registrar. You will then receive a certified copy of the document in the mail.

In case you have not signed the form at the hospital or facility where the child was born, you will have to file it yourself by taking it or mailing it to the local registrar. You will then receive a certified copy via mail.

How Does the AOP Affect the Child and Parents’ Rights?

The acknowledgement of paternity carries legal implications. The legal father of the child shares rights and responsibilities with the mother, such as:

  • Disclosing family medical history if the child’s health circumstances require it
  • Supporting the child financially and emotionally and allowing them to inherit
  • Extending health and life insurance to the child, if applicable
  • Making decisions regarding the minor’s education and religious upbringing
  • Seeking court-ordered custody or visitation, if applicable
  • Having a say regarding adoption proceedings, if applicable

Can you refuse to sign the acknowledgement of paternity?

Absolutely. The signature must be provided voluntarily. You should not sign the AOP if you have doubts regarding the paternity of the child or/and the document’s legal implications.

You can also change your mind and rescind the AOP you have already signed if you do so within 60 days.

Does the AOP affect your child’s birth certificate?

Yes, if the AOP is signed after a birth certificate has already been issued, the relevant office for vital records will issue a new certificate that reflects the paternity established by the AOP.