Who Must Pay Child Support in a Virginia Divorce

In Virginia, in order for a child to be entitled to support, paternity must be established. This service is offered through the child support enforcement program. There are two ways paternity can be established:

  • When both parents agree that a man is the only possible father of a child, they can establish paternity for the child by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. This form is made available in hospitals, through local social services agencies, and from registrars of vital statistics in every county. The form, when witnessed and filed with the registrar of vital statistics in the district in which the child was born, establishes paternity and the obligation of both parents to provide financial support for the child.
  • A court can establish paternity based on the filing of a petition naming a man as the father of a child. Where the man denies paternity, the court must order the mother, putative (alleged) father and the child to submit to genetic testing. These genetic tests are performed on blood or skin cells in order to either exclude a man as the father of a child or to establish a probability of paternity-a likelihood than the man is the father of a child. Where the probability of paternity is 95% or greater, the man is presumed to be the child's father, and must prove to the court that he is not in order to avoid paternity establishment.

There are many excellent reasons for parents to legally establish the paternity of their child.

  • A man's name cannot appear on his child's birth certificate unless paternity has been established.
  • A child is entitled to financial support, including child support, social security benefits, veteran's benefits, military allowances, and inheritance, once paternity has been established.
  • A child may be entitled to health insurance through his/her father, as well as his/her mother, once paternity has been established.
  • A child deserves to know who both his/her parents are, including having access to their medical histories.

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