Does a Virginia unmarried father get parental rights?

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2022 | Family Law |

Many couples decide to forgo marriage for partnerships or co-living arrangements. While these relationships work for some couples, sometimes these unique co-habilitation relationships can lead to some difficult issues down the road.

These issues include not having the protection of divorce law should the couple decide to split. Virginia has a well-developed system for dividing the property of married couples if they choose to divorce, but doesn’t have a lot to say about property division between former couples who were never married. Child custody and child support issues can also be more complicated in cases in which the parents were never married.

In this post, we will focus on the unmarried father’s parental rights.

Is an unmarried father automatically given parental rights?

In Virginia, unmarried mothers automatically gain parental rights by virtue of giving birth to their children. Unmarried fathers must establish paternity.

This can be done by an agreement called an AOP (Acknowledgement of Paternity) between the mother and father and notary. This legally confirms that the unmarried man is indeed the child’s father.

If that is not an option, then laboratory tests can also establish paternity. The Commonwealth of Virginia allows for both AOP agreements and lab tests to establish paternity for an unmarried father. Paternity must be established legally before an unmarried father could seek to ask for visitation or custody of a child.

What if I need help seeking custody?

If you are seeking to acknowledge paternity or custody from an unmarried relationship, an attorney versed in Virginia family law can help craft a plan unique for your personal desired outcomes. Establishing paternity does not have to be contentious, but if it is, an attorney can help an unmarried father seek what a mother gains automatically at birth. Paternity can give an Alexandria, Virginia, father legal rights.