What Are the Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Virginia?

Surovell Isaacs & Levy, PLLC discusses the rights of an unmarried father in Virginia.

If you are an expectant father who is unmarried to the mother of your child, you may not be aware of your rights and how you can go about securing them. 

No Presumption of Paternity

To be entitled to the rights associated with being the father of a child, it is necessary that you legally establish paternity. When a baby is born outside of marriage, you have no presumption of paternity. If your name is not on the child’s birth certificate, you are not entitled to seek visitation or custody of your child and he or she is unable to benefit from you. Benefits you can offer your child may include things such as veterans’ benefits, health insurance, or inheritance of assets upon your death. 

Establishing Paternity

It is important to legally establish paternity as quickly as possible. You can move forward with establishing paternity by filing a verified petition in the appropriate court, seeking to recognize your position as the child’s father. Then, you present evidence of paternity to the Court. There are two significant ways in which you can do so:

1. Sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)

AOPs are voluntarily forms, generally found at the hospital, which you and the mother are obligated to sign in front of a witness. However, you do not need to fill this out in the hospital and can do so later. 

2. Get genetically tested

Genetic testing, including blood testing, is available to affirm with at least ninety-eight percent probability that you are a child’s biological father. You can have a test performed by paying through a private lab, or you can open a case with the Department of Social Services or Department, and have the Commonwealth analyze the test results. 

Seeking Visitation and Custody 

Once you have established legal paternity you are then able to seek legal custody, physical custody, and/or visitation with your child. Under Virginia law, neither parent is automatically entitled to more custodial time than the other. The court is only concerned with what is in the child’s best interest. Mothers are not automatically entitled to more custodial rights simply because they gave birth to the child. However, the courts do consider who is the child’s primary caretaker. If you work to establish paternity and seek custody and/or visitation schedule quickly after your child is born, it is more difficult for a court to claim that only one parent is the primary caretaker and deserves more time with your child. 

Child Support

Although you are entitled to certain legal rights as a child’s father, you are also held to certain responsibilities. One such responsibility is to pay child support. In Virginia, both parents are required to provide financial support for the benefit of their child. Child support is based upon the monthly gross income of each parent as well as other factors including, but not limited to, the cost of health insurance, work-related daycare, and the amount of custodial time each parent has with the child. 

If you believe you could be a father but have not established paternity or been named on the birth certificate, then you can and should enroll in the Virginia Putative Father Registry. This confidential Registry will notify you of any adoption of termination of parental rights proceedings involving a child that you may have fathered.

Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC Can Help

If you are an expectant father of a child with someone to whom you are not married, it is important that you ensure the protection of your rights. You can do so with the counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney. At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC we will work hard to get you what you deserve. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, visit us online or call us at 703-988-4600 today!

Posted in: Family Law