How to establish paternity in Virginia

If you are a father not married to your child’s mother at the time of his or her birth, you need to establish your paternity so you can have access to and full information about him or her.

Virginia offers you the following four ways to establish your paternity:

  1. You and your child’s mother sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity and file it with the Division of Vital Records in Richmond either at the time of the child’s birth or shortly thereafter.
  2. You, the mother and the child take DNA tests offered by the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement.
  3. You open a DCSE child support case.
  4. You file a petition in your local Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court asking the judge to declare you the father of your child.

Acknowledgement of Paternity

If you and your child’s mother agree that you are the biological father, signing the voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form immediately upon your child’s birth represents your easiest avenue to establish your paternity. In addition, it ensures that your child’s original birth certificate lists you as his or her father.

You likely can obtain the AOP form at the hospital where your child’s birth occurs. If not, you can obtain one at your local health department. Both you and your child’s mother will need to sign this form in front of a notary public.

DNA testing

If you and your child’s mother failed to sign and file an AOP, you can establish your paternity through DNA testing provided by the DCSE. You, your child and his or her mother will all need to take these tests. If your results come back positive as your child’s biological father, the DCSE will charge you $90 for all three tests. If your test comes back negative, the DCSE itself pays for all three tests.

Court action

If your child’s mother disputes your paternity of your child, you will need to go to court and ask a judge to issue a court order naming you as your child’s father. The judge almost certainly will require DNA testing of you, your child, and the child’s mother to substantiate your claim.