Families come in all shapes and sizes these days. It’s not at all uncommon for a couple in Virginia to live together and have a child together even if they are not married. These couples, like married couples, do not always see relationship success and may break up. Child custody is an issue all parents face when they divorce or break up. For unmarried couples, child custody depends in part on the establishment of paternity.
What is paternity?
When a married couple have a child together, the husband is presumed to be the child’s father for legal purposes. This means the father has a duty to support the child financially but also has the right to pursue custody or visitation periods with the child. However, if a child’s parents are unmarried, mother cannot seek child support and the father cannot seek custody or visitation until paternity is established. Once paternity is established, the father’s name can be placed on the child’s birth certificate.
How can I establish paternity?
One way to establish paternity is to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity at the hospital when the child is born. This is a form that is signed stating under oath that the man is the child’s biological father for legal purposes. Another way to establish paternity is to take a DNA test either via a court order or through the Division of Child Support Enforcement.
The benefits of establishing paternity
Establishing paternity makes it possible for the child to have the financial support of both parents, as well as a possible relationship with both parents. It benefits the child by providing the child with their family medical history. It also confers upon a child inheritance rights. A child also has a fuller sense of identity when they know who their father is. Ultimately, if an unmarried couple has a child and have since split up, they should establish paternity. This is the first step in resolving child custody and child support issues.