While mothers have automatic legal rights to their child at birth, fathers may not. When a couple has a child out of wedlock, they must take specific steps to establish a legal connection between the father and the child.

If you have questions about parental rights and responsibilities, a Virginia paternity lawyer can assist you. Our team of committed family attorneys represent men and women seeking to establish a parent-child relationship through the paternity process.

Why It Is Essential to Establish Paternity

Studies have consistently shown that children do best when raised by two devoted parents. In addition to the security a child enjoys when they have the love and support of both parents, establishing paternity offers certain legal benefits. Some of these include the right to inherit from their father, receive social security and other government payments, and have health insurance under their father’s plan.

The advantages of paternity establishment for a child go beyond their legal rights. Once the legal father is identified, a child also has the opportunity to form relationships with their extended paternal family. They can also develop a better understanding of their medical background and family origins.

Parents also gain certain rights once paternity is determined. A father can request custody and visitation with his child, and the mother can rely on the father for parenting assistance. Additionally, both parents have the legal right to request child support from the other, depending on the specific custody arrangement. A seasoned attorney can further explain the advantages of paternity establishment in Virginia.

Paternity Determinations in Virginia

Virginia parents can generally pursue various methods to establish paternity  under state law. First, if a married couple had a child, the husband is presumed to be the child’s legal father. Subject to a paternity petition by another man alleging he is the child’s father, the husband assumes all legal rights and responsibilities of fatherhood.

For a child born to an unmarried couple, the Code of Virginia §64.2-103 requires a parent to establish paternity by clear and convincing evidence that the father did the following:

  • Cohabitated openly with the mother during the ten months before the child’s birth
  • Provided consent to a physician or other person, not including the mother, that his name be included on the child’s birth certificate
  • Allowed the child to openly and regularly use the father’s name
  • Claimed the child on his federal or state income tax return or other government document signed by him
  • Admitted he was the child’s father in open court
  • Acknowledged paternity in writing under oath
  • Submitted to a DNA test that conclusively established him as the child’s biological father

A man also assumes the rights and responsibilities of legal fatherhood when he formally adopts a child.

If a man presents himself as a child’s father and the mother, her husband, or another man alleging himself as the father disputes paternity, a judge must make the final determination. Contested paternity actions are among the most emotionally draining and contentious cases heard in Virginia family courts. As such, any person facing a paternity hearing is advised to consult a well-practiced lawyer.

Virginia’s Putative Father Registry

A man may believe he is a child’s father even though a court has not yet determined paternity. To protect his possible parenting rights, he can file with the Putative Father Registry. A putative father is a man not married to the child’s mother before or after the child’s birth, who has not legally established or acknowledged paternity, but may be the child’s biological father.

If a man chooses to join the registry, the state must notify him of any court proceedings related to the termination of his parental rights or the adoption of his child by someone else. However, the putative father registry does not conclusively establish paternity. A capable legal professional in Virginia can assist a man with the registration process and a legal paternity determination.

Get Direction from an Experienced Virginia Paternity Attorney

Establishing paternity can be more challenging than you might anticipate. Beyond simply taking a DNA test, you must follow specific laws and court procedures to ensure the identity of a child’s father is conclusively determined.

Whether you seek to prove or disprove a child’s paternity, you could benefit from the assistance of a skilled Virginia paternity lawyer. Our firm’s dedicated attorneys understand the significance of a father in his child’s life and can work to solidify legal fatherhood. Call now.