What Is Paternity Establishment?

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.

Three ways to establish paternity


Sign a voluntary document called an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP)


Secure a genetic test through Child Support Enforcement or a certified laboratory


Contact the local Juvenile Domestic Relations court

Without a legal father, a child may miss out on many of the things that children of married couples are automatically provided. For example, the child may not receive financial benefits, such as Social Security and inheritance rights. If paternity is not established, the father’s name will not appear on the child’s birth certificate.

What is the Virginia Paternity Establishment Program?

In conjunction with Virginia Division of Social Services and Division of Child Support Enforcement, The Virginia Paternity Establishment Program works closely with the birth registars of each birthing hospital in the state and provides training and education of our program. The program also provides education and outreach to parents and a broad array of partners in the state of Virginia.

VPEP strives to enrich the lives of children through educational efforts for all unmarried parents. Benefits of paternity range from raising a child’s self-esteem to establishing a health history. We believe that the advantages of establishing paternity will help families, one child at a time. We want to ensure as many children as possible leave the hospital with paternity established and receive all the benefits that a legal father provides.

  • Assist – VPEP’s team of experts will assist you through the process of voluntarily establishing your child’s paternity — it is easy, fast, and free at the time of birth!
  • Connect – At VPEP, we believe it is important to bring together families and helpful resources to ensure each of Virginia’s children have the best possible beginning.
  • Educate – VPEP educates Virginia families and communities about the importance and benefits of paternity establishment through partnerships with local agencies and hospitals.
  • Promote – VPEP works to promote voluntary paternity establishment which strengthens families and communities and encourages healthy relationships between parents and children.
  • Train – VPEP offers training to establish and expand the knowledge base for all professionals interested in assisting parents with paternity establishment.
  • Understand – VPEP’s team understands that establishing paternity may be new to you. We are here to walk you through your course of action and are sensitive to your individual needs.