How to establish paternity voluntarily

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

If you are not married but both parents agree who the father is, the two of you can sign a form called a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage. This form gives legal rights and responsibilities to the biological father. It also gives rights to your child.

Even if a Voluntary Acknowledge of Parentage is signed, the mother has sole physical and legal custody until a court makes any different decision. But by signing this form, both parents have the right to file a case in court to ask for things like custody and parenting time.

If parents do not sign this form, only the mother has custody of the child. And the child does not have a legal father. Read more about Paternity


Do not sign this form if either of you is not sure who the father is. If either of you is not sure who the father is, get paternity testing. Wait for the results before you sign the form.

See LGBTQ Paths to Parentage Security for information about establishing parentage in same-sex relationships.

Where do we get the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form?

You can get the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form at:

How do we fill out the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form?

Make sure you read and understand the entire form. Do not sign the form if you do not understand something.  If you have any questions about what it means to sign this form, talk to an attorney first.

There are two sections for parents to fill out.

If you are the mother, fill out the mother's section. If you are the father, fill out the father's section.


You must sign this form in front of a Notary Public. Ask the hospital if they have a notary. You can also find notaries at banks and post offices.

Mother's section

Check the first box if you were not married to anyone when your child was born or at any time during the 300 days before your child was born. 

Check the second box if: you were married to someone other than your child's father when your child was born, or when you became pregnant. 

If you check the second box, you must also file an Affidavit of Nonpaternity. This form says your husband is not actually your child’s father. Your husband or your ex-husband must sign the form.

If he will not sign the form, you can go to court. You can file a Complaint to Establish Paternity. The court can decide that your  husband or ex-husband is not actually your child's father.


The father's name will not go on your child’s birth certificate until your husband or ex-husband signs an Affidavit of Nonpaternity or the court decides who your child’s legal father is.

Father's section

Fill in the father’s personal information.

Where do we file the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form?

After you have completed the form, you must file it.

You file either:

  • In the clerk's office for the city or town where your child was born. There may be a fee.
  • At the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics for a fee.

Even if you don’t file the signed and notarized form, it is legally binding. But filing the form is important proof of parentage.

What if I realize I was wrong about who the father on the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage is?

You have 60 days from when you sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage to change it. After 60 days, it is very hard to change.

In those 60 days, you can ask the court to cancel the Acknowledgment of Paternity. File a Complaint to Rescind Paternity Acknowledgment Pursuant to Chapter 209C, Section 11 in the Probate and Family Court.  “Rescind” means to cancel. See a sample complaint you can use.

What if I need to cancel the Voluntary Acknowledgment after 60 days?

There are only a few situations where you can try to cancel the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage after the 60 days.

You can ask the court to cancel the establishment of paternity only within one year from when you signed the form.  And only if you can prove that  the other parent did something wrong to get you to sign the form, like:

  • The mother lied and said you are the father (“fraud”).
  • The other parent forced you to sign the form (“duress” or illegal pressure).
  • A paternity test proves that the man on the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage cannot be the child’s biological father. Or, the mother was sure no one else could be the father but she was wrong(“material mistakes of fact”).

If you need the court to cancel the Acknowledgment after the 60 days, talk to a lawyer.

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