Establishing Paternity in Virginia
When a married woman gives birth to a child, the law presumes that she is the mother and that her husband is the father. However, it is becoming increasingly common for individuals to have children outside of marriage. While a few decades ago this would have been scandalous, now it is simply another way individuals expand their modern families. Without a lawful husband, there are additional steps a mother must take to establish parentage under the law.
Why Does Paternity Matter?
Virginia law understands that establishing paternity is crucial for both the parents and the child in certain circumstances… Paternity is a legal as well as emotional connection. A father has a legal duty to provide financial support and care to his child. Additionally, once paternity is established, a father may establish his right to see and spend time with his child – a right that could be denied to him if paternity is never legally established.
Acknowledgement of Paternity
When both parents are sure of their relationship to their child, they can sign an acknowledgement of paternity (AOP) form at the hospital or by working with the Office of Vital Records. Doing this legally establishes a child’s father from birth and ensures that the father’s name is on the birth certificate. Signing an AOP is free and there is no need for genetic testing.
However, if there is any question as to the father of a child, an AOP is not the best course of action. Instead, a potential father should have a genetic test completed to determine paternity.
Many possible fathers agree to genetic testing without any court intervention. A DNA test simply requires a swab of the possible father and child’s inner cheek. These swabs may be taken at the hospital or through a private laboratory. Any results that show a connection of 98 percent or higher between the child and possible father prove paternity.
There are circumstances in which a possible father does not want to submit to genetic testing. In this case, a mother should work with a Leesburg family law attorney. Your attorney may file an action in your local court or begin a case with Virginia’s Department of Social Services’ Division of Child Support Enforcement. Once you have a case going, the possible father can be ordered to participate in a test. If you go through DCSE, the department can schedule a time for the test and the swabs will be sent to a lab contracted with the DCSE to analysis.
The individual who pays for the genetic testing can depend on the circumstances. If the individuals agree to undergo a private test, they can determine who pays for it or split the costs. If the court orders the test, the court may determine who pays for it. If a mother is working with the DCSE, a man who undergoes the test and is found to be the father may be required to pay for the test. However, if he is not the father, then DCSE may pay for the test.
Contact a Leesburg Child Custody Attorney for Help
If you are having a child outside of marriage and you want to establish paternity, contact the experienced legal team of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC in Leesburg right away. Whether you are a mother dealing with an uncooperative father or you are a father who wants the right to see his child, we will help you establish paternity and develop a custody arrangement. Call us today at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.