For Parents

What You Need To Know

For Unmarried Parents

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, if parents are not legally married at the time of birth, the biological father’s name will not appear on his child’s birth certificate unless they establish paternity.

Reasons why you should add a dad to the birth certificate include:

  • The biological father does not have any legal rights to the child until paternity is established.
  • To be recognized as the child’s legal father there are steps that you must take as the biological father to become the legal father.
  • As the legal father of your child you are not automatically required to pay child support, have custody or even visitation. These are separate issues from establishing paternity and require separate court determinations.
  • 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 of who his or her legal parents are.

For Moms

The following is a checklist to help you follow the necessary steps to establish paternity for your child:

  • Make sure your photo ID is available.
  • A VPEP brochure will be provided to you during your stay at the hospital. This brochure educates mom and dad about the benefits of establishing paternity.
  • If you have already chosen your newborn’s name, make sure you have your preferred spelling on the acknowledgment of paternity form.
  • Upon hospital admission, make sure you tell your admitting nurse that you are unmarried This is an important component of completing acknowledgment of paternity form.
  • Make sure dad is available at discharge to sign the AOP.
  • If dad is unavailable at discharge, encourage him to set an appointment with the birth registrar to return and complete the acknowledgment of paternity form.
  • Once the hospital submits the completed acknowledgment of paternity form to the Office of Vital Records, your newborn’s birth certificate will be mailed to the address provided. Ensure that your contact information is correct.
  • Please remember that the Office of Vital Records charges a $10 amendment fee to update a birth certificate. The fee must be paid before an amendment can be made. The Office of Vital Records also requires parents to apply with their completed AOP form and amendment fee. Download it here.

For Dads

The following is a checklist to help you follow the necessary steps to establish paternity for your child:

  • Familiarize yourself with the paternity establishment policies in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This can be done by:
    • Reading the “Importance of Paternity” here
    • Reading the VPEP brochure
    • Calling the Virginia Paternity Establishment Program for more information at 866-398-4841
  • If you are accompanying your newborn’s mom to the hospital, begin to review your section of the Acknowledgement of Paternity form (AOP).
  • If you do not have a photo ID, you will be unable to get the AOP form notarized.
  • If you are unavailable before your newborn’s discharge but would like to complete the acknowledgment of paternity form, schedule an appointment with a birth registrar to return later. This should be done within 7 days of your newborn’s hospital discharge, as the process is free during that time frame. However, you are welcome to complete the AOP after the first 7 days for a minimal fee.
  • Once the completed acknowledgment of paternity form is submitted to the Office of Vital Records by the hospital, your newborn’s birth certificate will be mailed to the address provided. Ensure that your contact information is correct.