In Virginia, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts have the authority to resolve custody and visitation of a child when the child’s parents are not married. The Court applies the same standard as it does when it determines custody and visitation of a child born of a marriage, which is to examine the best interests of the child. When parents are unmarried, however, a father may have to establish that the child is his, which can be done in a number of ways.
Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)
Unmarried parents can voluntarily acknowledge the paternity of a child by signing a Voluntary Acknowledge of Paternity (AOP) prior to discharge from the hospital. This is a form to be filled out by the child’s parents and will suffice to allow the father’s name to be listed on the child’s birth certificate. Each parent has the right to rescind the AOP within the earlier of 60 days from the date of signing the AOP or the date of entry of an administrative or court order relating to the child in which the parent is a party.
Petition to Establish Paternity
If the parents do not sign an AOP, either parent can petition the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to establish paternity through DNA testing. If the DNA test confirms that the man is the biological father within a 98% probability, the Court will issue an order establishing paternity and the father may then petition the court for custody and/or visitation.
Establishing Paternity through the Division of Child Support Enforcement
Another method of establishing paternity is through the Division of Child Support Enforcement. Either parent can open a child support case with the Division and the Division will establish paternity through DNA testing. This method, however, does not grant a father rights of custody/visitation with the child, as the Division has no authority to establish a visitation schedule for either parent. If paternity is established through the Division, unmarried parents still need to petition the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts to set a custody and visitation schedule for the child.
Fairfax Child Custody Lawyers Standing By
Establishing paternity and obtaining custody of or visitation with a child are two separate procedures. The attorneys at Curran Moher Weis are experienced in handling cases involving both the establishment of paternity as well as custody and visitation matters. Contact our office online or by calling (571) 328-5020 to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.