The parental rights of married parents are easily established in Virginia when a child is born, but the rights of parents who are unmarried are considerably murkier. If you are an unmarried parent of a child and wish to establish your rights to custody, visitation, or support, you need an experienced Virginia family law attorney to zealously advocate for your rights and the rights of your child.
If you are an unwed mother of a child, the presumption exists at birth that you are the child’s parent. However, if you believe that you are the father of a child and unwed, you will first need to establish paternity for the child before pursuing your parental rights. There are two ways that you can establish parentage over a child born out of wedlock. The first is to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) at the hospital if the mother of the child agrees. The second way is to have a genetic test performed on you and the child to determine that you are the father of the child.
One final way to establish rights as an unwed father if an AOP is not signed or a genetic test has not been performed is to sign up on the Virginia Putative Father Registry. By signing up on this list you will be notified if there are any adoption or termination of parental rights proceedings when it comes to the child that you believe you fathered with an unwed mother.
Determination of Child Custody and Visitation
Once paternity is established, Virginia has no presumption of child custody in favor of either the mother or father if the parents are unmarried. The parents must petition the court for legal and physical custody of the child. Legal custody refers to the right of one or both parents to make decisions on behalf of their child and their child’s well-being, such as decisions regarding schooling, religion, extracurriculars, medical decisions, and more. Physical custody refers to where the child resides.
Either parent can petition for physical and legal custody over a child when they are unmarried. The court will make a determination based on the best interests of the child standard. Depending on the specific facts of your case, you could receive sole or joint custody of your child, visitation rights, and potentially child support if you gain custodial parental rights over your child. Typically, the courts in Virginia will favor the primary caretaker when the child is young, but that can be overcome with the help of an experienced attorney. Circumstances might also change for one or both of the unmarried parents that would justify a modification of the current custodial arrangement and assign more parental rights to a parent.
Call or Contact a Lawyer Today
To learn more about your rights as an unmarried parent in Virginia, call the office or contact us at Kurylo & Gold to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced family law attorney today to learn more.