Is a paternity action necessary?

On Behalf of | Jul 3, 2024 | Family Law |

While many unmarried parents remain together and parent their children successfully, others part ways. To continue as co-parents, these never-married parents need child custody arrangements the same way divorced parents do.

There is one significant difference when it comes to unmarried parents. In these matters, paternity needs to be established. While this may have been completed while the parents were together, this is a necessary step if child custody and support are going to be established.

Establishing paternity

The purpose of establishing paternity is to make a legal designation of fatherhood for a child. Without paternity established, a biological father will not be afforded parental rights of the child. When a married couple has a child, there is a presumption that the husband is the father. Thus, taking steps to establish paternity is not necessary. Similarly, when unmarried parents both sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity or AOP under oath, there won’t be a need to establish paternity.

The process to establish paternity is necessary when parents are not married, and they did not sign an AOP. Thus, if a father wants custody or visitation rights, he will need to go through the process to establish paternity.

Paternity process

In the state of Virginia, the process to establish paternity could occur one of two ways. First, a parent can open a child support case. This is done through the Division of Child Support Enforcement. Once the application is completed and filed, and DNA test will be administered.

The second course of action is to file a petition for paternity with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. This initiates the legal process to establish paternity through the court.

There are many benefits involved in a paternity action. Once established, the father can have his name placed on the child’s birth certificate, is afforded certain legal rights and responsibilities and seek custody or visitation. Establishing paternity also creates the legal responsibility to provide financial and medical support of the child.

Navigating a paternity action can be complex and emotional. Thus, it is important that you are aware of your rights and options throughout the paternity process.