A: It is simple! If you were unmarried from conception to birth, the mother and father can sign a document called an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) stating the father is the biological parent. The parents must provide a photo ID and sign in the presence of a Notary.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If the father and I are getting along, do I still need to complete an AOP?
A: You are creating a legal relationship between your child and their father by completing the AOP. This ensures the father has legal rights to the child, should something unfortunate happen to the mother and she is unable to continue to care for the child. This assurance can only occur if paternity has previously been established.
Q: Will I lose my benefits if we acknowledge paternity?
A: Signing an AOP form does not affect benefits such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or Medicaid.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: It is free if you complete the AOP in the hospital after your child’s birth. If you are unable to complete the AOP at the time of birth, you may return to the hospital at a later date or you may contact the Office of Vital Records (OVR), the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE), or the local Department of Health (DOH) to complete an AOP. You may also mail your completed AOP directly to our office at P.O. Box 8270 Richmond, VA 23226. After 7 days from the child’s birth, OVR requires a $10 fee to include the father on his child’s birth certificate. This is in addition to the $12 fee for a copy of the birth certificate. You will be required to pay these fees prior to receiving a birth certificate to include the father’s name— so be sure to save time and money by completing the AOP before leaving the hospital!
Q: How does establishing paternity affect my child’s birth certificate?
A: If you are unmarried at the time of your child’s birth, the biological father’s name will not be included on the child’s birth certificate without both parents completing an acknowledgment of paternity form. You and the biological father simply sign the AOP in the presence of a Notary. The birth registrar will help you fill out this form and answer any questions you may have.
Q: Is there anything I should know about naming my child since I am unmarried?
A: In the Commonwealth of Virginia, you may name your child anything you like at the time of birth. You are not restricted to using only your maiden name as the child’s last name, as it is in some states. If both parents sign an AOP form, they mustindicate how the child’s name should appear on the birth certificate.
Q: What if one parent is unavailable (military, incarcerated, works out of state, etc.) at the time of birth to sign an AOP?
A: You have two options to complete the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.
- Option 1: The AOP may be completed at the hospital by the parent who is available. This AOP will then be sent to the parent who is unavailable so they can complete their portion and have their signature notarized.
- Option 2: Each parent may complete a separate form and have it notarized. The information on both forms must match and be stapled together. The completed AOP(s) should then be submitted to the birthing hospital or mailed to the VPEP office at PO Box 8270 Richmond, VA 23226
Q: What if the mother is married to someone other than the biological father of the child?
A: If the mother is married, paternity cannot be established by voluntarily signing an AOP form. If you are married at the time of birth or within the ten months before the birth of your child, the Commonwealth of Virginia determines that the husband or ex-husband is the presumed father of your child. You must contact your local Circuit Court and/or Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court to legally establish paternity for the biological father. Visit this website for additional information: http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/jdr.html, or the DVR at 804.662-6200.
Q: What if the mother and/or father are younger than age 18?
A: Minors do not need parental permission to voluntarily establish paternity in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Q: Do we have to be U.S. citizens to establish paternity for our child?
A: No. Paternity establishment has nothing to do with your citizenship status. Paternity can be established using an AOP form for any child born to unmarried parents in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Q: Who has access to the information on the paternity form?
A: The information on your AOP form is confidential. Once the Office of Vital Records receives the completed form, only the Department of Child Support Enforcement and the Paternity Establishment Program have access to the information. No other federal or state agencies can obtain this information.
Q: If we establish paternity, will child support enforcement be a part of our life?
A: No, not unless the mother applies for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) services. The case will then be referred to DCSE and the mother will be required to cooperate by identifying the father.
Q: Once paternity is established, does this mean my child can receive child support?
A: Both parents are expected to financially support their child. In most cases the non-custodial parent (the one the child does not live with) is expected to assist with financial support. This arrangement can be between the parents or it can involve DCSE or the courts. For additional information please call 1.800.468.8894 or visit DCSE on the web at: http://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/dcse.html
Q: Can we change our mind after we have filed the AOP?
A: Either parent may cancel or “rescind” the AOP by completing a form and filing it with the OVR within 60 days from the date of the last notarized signature, unless a court order has been entered for the child during the 60 days. Rescission forms are only available at the OVR and local Health Departments. Once you file this form, you must also contact your local Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court system for additional instructions.