What Are Your Parental Rights If You’re Not Married?

Paternity Law Paperwork and GavelThe parental rights of a married couple are easy to establish. However, it can be more complex to determine your rights if you have a child and are unmarried. It is important to understand your rights if you are trying to resolve custody, visitation, or child support issues with the other parent of your child.

Establishing Parentage in Virginia

If a mother is unmarried in our Commonwealth, there is a presumption that she is the child’s parent. However, it can be more complicated for a father to establish paternity.

Three Options for Establishing Paternity

  1. The father can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital when the child is born. However, both parents must sign the form for the father to be listed on the baby’s birth certificate.
  2. If there is a dispute about the father’s paternity, the individual can file a Petition to Establish Paternity and ask the court to perform a DNA test on the child and the father.
  3. In addition, an unmarried father can sign up on the Virginia Putative Registry so that they receive notices of any termination of parental rights or adoption of the child.

How Child Custody and Visitation Are Determined

Once paternity has been established, neither parent has more rights to custody of the child if the couple is unmarried.

Two Types of Custody in Virginia

  1. Sole custody. If a parent is awarded sole custody of a child, they have the responsibility for the care and control of the child and the right to make most of the decisions concerning the child. In addition, the child would reside with them.
  2. Joint custody. If the parents are awarded joint legal custody, both parents share in the control and care of the child and in making decisions concerning the child. They would also share joint physical custody, but the child may live with one parent for more days than with the other parent.

If one parent is granted custody of the child, the noncustodial parent would have the right to visitation. In Virginia, the courts favor giving both parents the right to be involved in their child’s life. If the parents cannot agree on custody or visitation rights, the judge would consider the best interests of the child in determining these rights.

Are you seeking to establish your parental rights and are not married to the other parent of your child? Our experienced family law lawyers are here to help you protect your rights. Contact our Norfolk office or call us at 877-960-3441 to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.


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