When a child is born into a marriage, the law presumes the husband is the father. These days, many couples cohabitate and have children without marrying. But even though a child’s unmarried parents were living together, the man gets no legal presumption of fatherhood. It’s also increasingly common for unmarried partners who have never shared a household to conceive children. These situations leave the parents in doubt about child support obligations and visitation rights. At Tucker Griffin Barnes P.C., our Virginia family law attorneys help men and women assert their rights for the sake of their children. We have the skill and experience to pursue the correct results to advance the best interests of your children.
Unmarried parents who want to establish paternity at the time of the child’s birth can sign a form called the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAOP) prior to the mother’s discharge from the hospital. There is no cost for this service. This way, the father’s name can appear on the child’s birth certificate and he has legal parent status from the start of his son or daughter’s life. Minors can sign this document without parental permission. Persons who want to sign a VAOP must present a current government identification, such as driver’s license. The service is available for non-citizens and is confidential. Signing a VAOP does not affect benefits such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Medicaid.
A father who signs a VAOP does not automatically obtain child custody or visitation rights. However, he has the standing to seek legal and physical custody, along with visitation, in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court of the county where the mother resides.
There are circumstances where the child’s mother, a putative father or the child wants to establish paternity over another’s opposition. This requires filing a paternity action in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in the county where the child resides. If at the court appearance the mother and the father agree the man is the biological father, the court will enter an order establishing paternity. Should the parties dispute as to who is the father, the court can order DNA testing, which is 99 percent accurate. In the event that the genetic test shows that the man is father, the court will enter an order establishing paternity.
There are many reasons why a person might want to establish paternity legally, such as:
Regardless of the specific reason you are seeking to establish legal paternity, a family law attorney at our firm can help you assert your rights.
Tucker Griffin Barnes P.C. in Charlottesville represents Virginia clients in paternity matters. Call today at 434-973-7474 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. For your convenience, we have locations in Harrisonburg, Palmyra and Staunton as well.
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