Having a child out of wedlock is starting to lose its social stigma, and it is not unusual these days for a child in Virginia to be born to unmarried parents. However, when this happens the child’s father will have to establish paternity, which will confer upon the father all the legal rights and obligations that come with being a parent.
For example, if the child’s parents were never married and are no longer in a relationship with one another, the child’s father may want to establish paternity, so he can seek visitation rights. It is important to keep in mind that establishing paternity doesn’t automatically grant the father visitation rights. They are two separate legal issues. First, paternity needs to be established and confirmed by the court. Once this is done, then the father can file a motion with the court for visitation rights.
Similarly, establishing paternity is a separate issue from granting the father child custody rights. First, paternity needs to be established and confirmed by the court. Following that, the father can move the court to review the existing child custody arrangements, to determine if joint or shared custody should be awarded. Keep in mind that a court in Virginia will only modify a child custody order if doing so is in the child’s best interests.
In addition, since both parents are obligated to financially support their child, once paternity is established, the non-custodial parent may be ordered to pay child support. The amount of support ordered will be based on each parent’s income. So, if the child’s mother has custody of the child, once paternity is established, the child’s father will have to pay child support.
As this shows, establishing paternity is good for a number of reasons. Not only does it give the father the right to seek visitation or custody of the child, but it also may obligate the father to support the child financially. All of this ultimately benefits the child, who deserves to have the financial and emotional support of both parents. Those who have questions about how to legally establish paternity will want to seek the assistance needed to ensure they understand their choices.