Everyone is legally obligated to support the children they bring into the world. If you are the father or the mother, you must contribute to the cost of supporting your child. If you are not the biological parent and have not adopted the child, or have had your parental rights terminated, you have no support obligation.
The threshold question is whether you are the biological parent. For obvious reasons, men are the ones whose parentage can be uncertain. The term for a man who the mother alleges to be the father of a child is called the “putative father.” In earlier times the process of establishing paternity depended very heavily on the the testimony of the mother which can be unreliable in some cases.
Today genetic testing has eliminated most doubt about paternity. The Virginia Code allows a putative father the right to have paternity determined by genetic testing. Virginia Code Section 20-49.4.
We refer clients who want genetic testing to a firm called Labcorp to perform the DNA test. Labcorp has facilities throughout the country and, particularly in interstate cases, it is simply convenient to deal wtih them.
In 2001, the law in Virginia was amended to allow a man who has been determined to be the father of a child to have that determination set aside if genetic testing establishes that he is not the father. Virginia Code Section 20-49.10.
If you are a putative father you may be asked if you want to acknowledge paternity. This is not something that you should do casually. Once you admit to being the father of a child, you have obligated yourself to support that child until he or she is eighteen years old. That can amount to a very large sum of money. And, the court can put you in jail if you don’t pay it. If you have acknowledged paternity while knowing that you are not the father of the child, you cannot have that determination of paternity set aside. You should not acknowledge paternity unless you are certain that you are the father or have made a carefully considered decision to acknowledge paternity despite having doubts.