How Is Paternity Established in Virginia?

Paternity can provide countless benefits to fathers, mothers, and children alike. In this comprehensive blog post, we will delve into the intricate process of paternity establishment in the state of Virginia.

In this post, we will explore the various methods available for determining paternity in situations when a child is already born or unborn. By gaining a deeper understanding of this process, individuals can make informed decisions for their families.

What Is Paternity?

Paternity refers to the legal determination of the biological father of a child. Establishing paternity not only involves the inclusion of the father's name on the child's birth certificate but also entails granting the father legal responsibility and rights towards the child.

How Is the Paternity of a Child Determined?

There are several ways to establish paternity in Virginia, including:

Acknowledgment of Paternity

The most convenient place to sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) is at the hospital before the mother and child are discharged. This service is provided free of charge by all birthing hospitals. To complete the process, the father needs to present a valid photo ID to the birth registrar before signing the form.

If parents are not able to establish paternity at the hospital, parents can sign an AOP form with the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Vital Records, local health department clinics, local departments of social services, and local child support offices.

Genetic Testing

Another option to determine genetic testing is through DNA testing. In cases where paternity is contested or there is uncertainty regarding the father's identity, genetic testing can provide clarity. Either the court or Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE), if you have a case with them, will coordinate the testing for the child, mother, and alleged father.

If the parties reside in different areas, their scheduling may be done separately in their respective locations. If the testing process is arranged by DCSE, samples will be collected by swabbing the inner cheek and conducted by a representative from DCSE's contracted laboratory. The collected samples are then sent to the laboratory for testing. The sample collection itself only takes a few minutes, and the test results are typically available within three to four weeks.

Presumption of Paternity

In Virginia, if a couple is married at the time of a child's birth, there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father. However, this presumption of paternity can be challenged in court if there is evidence to the contrary.

Paternity by Adoption

When a father adopts a child, he is recognized as the child's legal father.

How Is Paternity Established for an Unborn Child?

Paternity can also be established for an unborn child through genetic testing. For instance, in cases where a mother is considering adoption for her child, the father may require testing prior to birth to determine paternity.

Fortunately, advancements in non-invasive prenatal paternity testing offer options for DNA testing while pregnant. This method can be performed as early as seven weeks into pregnancy, offering an early opportunity to determine paternity without invasive procedures.

Additionally, alternative options such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) are also available.

What Happens Once Paternity Is Established?

Once paternity has been established, the father's name can be put on the child's birth certificate.

In addition, after paternity is established:

  • Fathers have the ability to seek custody or visitation for their child through the courts.
  • Fathers are legally responsible for providing financial and medical support for the child.

Get in Touch with Our Team

Navigating matters of paternity can be a complex and legally challenging process. If you need guidance or assistance in establishing paternity, our team at The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller is here to help.

Whether you're a father or a mother navigating the legal terrain of paternity, our team is dedicated to assisting you in this journey and strives for a favorable outcome for you and your child.

Don't hesitate to reach out to us for the support you need. Call (757) 267-4949 or fill out our online form.

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