What Is Paternity Establishment?

The biological father must be legally identified before his name can be added to the child’s birth certificate if he is not married to the child’s mother. 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 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 registrars of each birthing hospital by providing training and education of our program. The program also provides education and outreach to parents and a variety of partners in the state of Virginia.

VPEP strives to enrich the lives of children by educating 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  provide families with 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. We do this through partnerships with local agencies and hospitals.
  • Promote – VPEP works to promote voluntary paternity establishment. Paternity strengthens families and communities by encouraging healthy relationships between parents and children.
  • Train – VPEP offers training to 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 the process and are sensitive to your individual needs.