If a child is born to unmarried parents, the biological father must be legally identified before a father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. This process is called establishing paternity.
Without a legal father, a child may miss out on many of the things that children of married couples are automatically provided. Paternity establishment provides a legal father for your child and is the critical first step in ensuring the father is in your child’s life. If paternity is not legally established, your child may not receive financial support from both parents. But when paternity is established, your child can receive economic benefits such as social security, veteran’s benefits, health insurance and inheritance rights, your child also benefits by having the advantage of knowing both parents and a sense of family heritage. In addition, your child will have information about the father’s family medical history that could be necessary in the future.
There are three ways to establish paternity in the Commonwealth of Virginia
- Sign a voluntary document called an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)
- Secure a genetic test through Child Support Enforcement or a certified laboratory
- Contact your local Juvenile Domestic Relations Court
The easiest was to establish paternity is to complete an AOP. Unmarried parents can sign the AOP prior to discharge from the hospital after the birth of their baby at no cost to them. Even if you plan to marry or if you live together, establishing legal fatherhood guarantees the child’s rights. Only when the father’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate can the child be sure who their legal parents are.
A few things to keep in mind before signing the AOP:
- If the parents are unmarried, a father’s name is not automatically added to the birth certificate unless an AOP form is completed.
- You will need current photo identification since the AOP form must be notarized.
- You do not need to be a US citizen to sign the form. Your information is confidential and will not impact your immigration status.
- Paternity establishment and custody are two separate issues.
- Acknowledging paternity is free if the AOP if completed before leaving the hospital.
If you have additional questions about voluntarily acknowledging paternity, please refer to our website at www.vapaternity.com. Add the Dad today and download an Acknowledgement of Paternity form here.