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What Are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?
How is it Done?

Establishing paternity means officially determining that a legal relationship exists between a father and his child. There are different situations when establishing paternity is needed. 

When a court gets involved, paternity establishes the relationship legally. It doesn’t mean that the father is necessarily biologically related to the child.  The “legal” father is the person who has parental rights and responsibilities to the child and may not be related by blood at all.  You should know that establishing paternity can come with lots of advantages for every member of your family. Let’s talk about how establishing paternity can benefit everyone in your family.


Establishing Paternity Secures Your Legal Rights As a Father 

Establishing paternity protects your rights as a father in these ways:

●     It gives you a legal right to a relationship with your children and can make future custody and support agreements with the child’s other parent simpler and help avoid court.

  • It allows you to travel with your child.

  • It makes it possible to change your child’s last name to yours.

●     If you’re worried your child’s other parent will take your child out of state without your consent, it gives you legal rights to block the parent from relocating or to get your child back if they’ve already left the state with your child. 

Establishing Paternity Gives Your Child Important Legal Rights 

Establishing paternity provides important benefits to the child, including the right to claim your VA benefits, social security, inherit from you or your relatives, life insurance, and medical insurance coverage. It also can help you form an emotional bond with your child. It’s important that your child shares your life with you, just as much as it is for the mother. 

How To Voluntarily Establish Paternity 

Usually, paternity is often established voluntarily, either at the time of birth or shortly afterward. In Virginia, paternity is automatically assigned to the husband when a couple is married, no matter if the husband is the biological father. Establishment is done at the hospital or clinic (or with the midwife, if birthing is done at home) via an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. 


If the mother is married to someone besides the child’s biological father when the child is born, the current husband is automatically assumed to be the legal father. 

Determining Paternity Through the Court System

Sometimes, paternity can’t be established voluntarily. For example, the mother may not know who the father is or many men may claim to be the father. This puts the paternity of the child in question. In these situations, establishing paternity through the legal system may be required, and a court order for a DNA genetic test may be necessary to figure out who the child’s father is. The mother can also open a case with the Virginia Department of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) to try to get paternity established. If you’re suspected to be the father you may receive a summons to appear in court.

The mother, a presumed parent, or an alleged parent may also file a Petition to Establish Paternity through the court. Again, a summons will be served on the alleged father. If this is your situation, you’ll have a chance to respond, and the paternity issue will go through the court system. You don’t need an attorney to do this, either, but you may want to hire one to help you during the process.

How to Get Legal Help

While the law doesn’t require you to have an attorney to establish paternity, having legal representation by your side can make the process a lot easier and less intimidating. And it’s important not to sign any documentation admitting to be the child’s father if there’s any doubt in your mind that the child is yours.  

If you would like assistance with your Paternity Acknowledgement Form or have any other questions about how to establish paternity, the Bramble Law Firm is here to help you.


You can reach us at 540-628-7340 to arrange a private consultation with one of our paternity attorneys.

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