Parentage must be established for a child whose parents were not married or in a registered domestic partnership at the time of the child's conception or birth.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)

An Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) is a legal document voluntarily signed by an unmarried mother and father to identify the child's second parent. When both parents complete the AOP form properly, they often do not have to go to court to establish parentage for the child.  They can present the AOP form to have the both parents' names placed on the child's birth certificate.

The easiest way to complete the AOP is to do it at the hospital or birthing center right after the child is born.  Staff there will help parents complete the AOP and notarize it. If the child already is born and out of the hospital, parents can complete an AOP either at the Vital Records Division of the Department of Health or through CSSD.  Either Vital Records or CSSD staff will explain your rights and responsibilities, help you complete the AOP, notarize it, and have it filed. 

Frequently Asked Questions -- Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)

Who can complete an AOP?

To complete an AOP in the District, the child must have been born in the District. Also, the child's mother must not be married to, or in a domestic partnership with, another person at the child's conception, birth, or any period in between.


Neither parent has to be a US citizen or legal resident to sign an AOP.

Military Personnel

CSSD will work with military families in completing an AOP for a child.  For individuals stationed overseas, CSSD may send written and audiovisual materials, arrange to speak with potential parents and answer questions, and request that a commanding officer or a chaplain witness the signature(s).

Incarcerated Individuals

The paternity establishment process is available to parents who are not married at the time of birth, conception, or anytime in between, even if one of the parents is incarcerated. CSSD will work with the parents and the jail or prison staff to arrange for the proper completion and notarization of the AOP, if the parents wish to move forward with acknowledging paternity.

How does someone complete an AOP?

  • Both parents must swear that the information they are entering onto the AOP form is true.
  • Parents must provide photo identification.
    • The notary public, who witnesses the signatures, will decide if the identification provided is sufficient. However, generally, any government-issued identification is acceptable, such as a driver's license, state-issued identity card, passport, school identification, or military ID. The identification should be current, as a notary may not accept identification that has expired. Also note that utility bills may not be used to prove a person's identity.
  • All parts of the form must be filled out completely, and the form must typed or hand-written in ink (and legible).

What happens after an AOP is signed?

There are legal consequences to signing an AOP, including being responsible for the child's financial support.

Genetic Testing

Because of the responsibilities of parentage, a person who is not sure of the child's parentage should not sign the AOP document. If there is uncertainly about the child's parentage, genetic testing is an option before completing an AOP. Private testing costs are at least $300; however, once a case is opened with CSSD, testing can be done for free or at a nominal fee.

Visitation and Custody

Signing an AOP does not guarantee that a parent will have visitation or custody. However, when parentage has not been established, a person has no legal right to visit with, or have custody of, the child.

Is it possible to change your mind after signing an AOP?

A person who has acknowledged the parentage of a child with an AOP may take back ("rescind") an AOP within a specific time frame after signing.