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Ways of Establishing Paternity in Virginia

The rules to establish paternity in Virginia differ. It depends on whether a child’s mother is married or unmarried when the baby is born. Paternity means fatherhood. 

If you aren’t married to your child’s mother, paternity has to be established before you will be legally recognized as the father and get custody and visitation rights to your son or daughter. 


It’s important to know that any child born to unmarried parents is considered an illegitimate child until paternity is established. If you were not married to your baby’s mother, you’ll have to show the state that you’re the biological father.  This is an extremely important legal process. You should consider protecting your rights as a father by establishing a parent-child relationship. Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to get custody and parental rights when you’ve never been married to your child’s mother. 

Benefits of Filing to Establish Paternity

In your petition to establish paternity, you can ask the court to grant you custody and visits with your child. The court may give you these rights after finding that you are the legal father. 

You have a better chance of obtaining custody or a substantial amount of parenting time (visitation) if you file your legitimation case as soon as you can.

Both parents have equal rights to ask for custody once paternity is granted. There is nothing written in Virginia law that says mothers have superior rights to get custody.  

Many fathers have obtained custody after filing a successful paternity petition.


If you have questions about how to file for paternity, call Attorney Tori Bramble today at (540) 628-7340.

How Paternity is Established When a Child is Born to a Married Mother?

In Virginia, if a child is born to a married woman it’s presumed to be her husband’s child so long as they’ve been married for at least 10 months before the child is born. The husband is considered the “presumptive father” (legal father) of the child. This means if you’re the presumptive father, you’ll be responsible for child support because Virginia will assume you’re the father.

How Do I Challenge Paternity if I’m Married and I Think the Child Isn’t Mine?

You have the right to challenge paternity if you don’t believe you are the father of your wife’s child. Virginia law says the presumption of paternity can be rebutted (challenged). This means as a husband, you’ll have the chance to prove that you’re not the father, (just like on the Maury show) even though you were married to the child’s mother when they were born. 

4 Basic Ways to Establish Paternity in Virginia

There are 4 basic ways you can prove you’re the father in Virginia:


  • Take a DNA test. You can get one through the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE)

  • Open a DCSE Child Support Case

  • File a petition to establish paternity with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in the appropriate court 

  ●   Signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital when the baby is born

The fastest and simplest way to challenge the paternity presumption is to get a DNA Test. With genetic paternity testing of you and the child’s DNA, you’ll be able to prove or not prove that you’re the father. And with today’s lab and drugstore DNA paternity testing kits, you can find out if the child is yours. 

You should know that the Virginia Code will let you use DNA test results, including home DNA blood tests in court as evidence, but only if these legal requirements are satisfied:

1)    Test results are required in a written report

2)   Test results must have been done and sworn to by a qualified expert; and

3)   The DNA report has to be filed with the clerk of the court where your case is at least 15 days before the trial or hearing.

Practically speaking, because of all the requirements listed above, it’s usually easier to just ask the court to order a DNA test.

If you have questions about paternity in Virginia, call Attorney Tori Bramble today at (540) 628-7340.

Establishing Paternity for Unmarried Mothers

Unmarried parents in Virginia are required to prove paternity by the “clear and convincing evidence” legal standard. This means the court has to be convinced you’re the father by looking at any of the following types of proof: 

  1. Living together openly or having has sex with the mother around the time the baby was conceived

  2. Other medical testing besides DNA or a blood test;

  3. Signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form 

  4. Consenting by giving the child your last name and holding yourself out to society as the child’s father

  5. Presumed father’s admissions who are between the ages of 14 and 18.

Why is it important for a father to establish paternity in Virginia?

Some dads mistakenly believe they can skip over getting legally recognized as their child’s father by behaving a certain way.  Your good actions towards your child will NOT automatically give you paternity rights to your child. If you’re not your child’s legal father you probably won’t be able to:

  •          Sign your name as your child’s father on the birth certificate

  •          Enroll your child in school

  •          Get a paternity test done to confirm that you’re the father

  •          Have your child inherit from you when you die

What happens at a paternity hearing?

At the paternity hearing, the judge will or will not decide if you’re the legitimate father. The judge may order you to pay child support to the child’s mother. The judge can also deal with other paternity-related matters including making custody and visitation decisions, ordering the mother to pay child support to you, as well as changing the child’s name.

What Else Should I Know About Paternity in Virginia?

Here are some more quick tips:

●     You must be the child’s biological father

●     You can’t enforce any verbal custody agreements between you and your child’s mother in court. 

●     Any custody agreement must be approved by a judge after you’ve established paternity of your child.

  • Mothers and fathers can file to establish paternity

Why is establishing paternity important?

Establishing your paternity is important because in Virginia, a  father doesn’t have a legal relationship with his child until he establishes his paternity and parental rights through the paternity process. You can’t ask for and get your custody or visitation rights. Without being considered your son or daughter’s legal father, you won’t be able to help make decisions about your child.

Don’t miss out on the relationship you and your child deserve. If you and your child’s mother were never married, the mother is automatically granted all custody and visitation rights under Virginia law. She can deny you visitation even if you’re giving her money to support your child. This is why it’s so important to file your paternity case and get a court order to establish your parental rights.

If you have questions about establishing your paternity, call Attorney Tori Bramble today at

(540) 628-7340.

Consult with a Fredericksburg paternity attorney today

Your first step towards knowing your rights is to consult with Attorney Tori Bramble regarding filing a petition for paternity. She’ll assess your situation, tell you about current laws that apply to your case, and discuss how we might represent you. She’s committed to making the court process easier so you and your child can have a great outcome. 

Attorney Bramble is knowledgeable and caring. She’s had many successful outcomes during her years of representing fathers in Virginia paternity proceedings. 

Contact Attorney Tori Bramble Today

Call us today at (540) 628-7340 to schedule an initial consultation. You can also contact us online to get help in your case.

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