There are many different family situations in Virginia. Some people have children while they are married, some are divorced and share custody or visitation. Other parents were never married, but may live together and co-parent. Others may have never been married and no longer be in a relationship with the other parent. In these different situations there is a father and a mother, but the legal rights of the father are different depending on if the parents were married or not.

Fathers who were married when the children were conceived are considered the legal father of the child. However, if the parents were not married, the biological father is not automatically considered the father of the children. Unwed fathers must first establish paternity in order to be considered the legal father of the children. This is important to do because fathers cannot have child custody or visitation until paternity is established.

Paternity can be established in a couple of different ways. One is by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity. This is a document signed by the parents typically at the hospital after the birth stating under oath that the father is in fact the father of the child. If this is not signed, the parents must establish paternity by having the father take a DNA test, opening a child support matter or filing a petition to establish paternity in court. If the DNA results indicate that the father is the father of the child, paternity will be established.

There are many fathers in Virginia who may know that they are the father of their child, but fathers must take extra steps after the birth of the child to establish paternity and be legally recognized as the father. Establishing paternity allows the father to seek custody and visitation with their children and also makes them responsible for child support for their children. Paternity and custody cases are important, but can also be complicated. Understanding the law is critical and experienced attorneys may be a useful resource.