The common cuckoo bird engages in a brutal behavior scientists call brood parasitism1. The female cuckoo lays her eggs in other birds’ nests. Quick-hatching cuckoo chicks hatch before their nestmates. They push the other bird eggs out of the nest to the ground below, leaving the foster bird mom to feed only the cuckoo. From the cuckoo we get the word cuckold, itself a brutal word.
Cuckoldry, despite mythic retellings dating back to when Hera fooled around on Zeus, is statistically very rare. Ars Technica puts the actual rate of fathers unknowingly raising children they have not sired at only one to two percent2.
That may relieve many Virginia Dads who have their suspicions about the children they are raising. The slightest suspicion, though, is enough to make some men crazy with curiosity, worry, and fear.
In Virginia, fatherhood is established in one of nine ways outlined in Code of Virginia § 64.2-103:
- You and the child’s mother are married
- Outside of marriage, you and the child’s mother cohabitated for 10 months before the child’s birth
- You allowed your name on the child’s birth certificate
- You gave your surname to the child
- You claimed the child on government documentation (taxes, etc.)
- You admitted paternity under oath or in court
- You took a genetic paternity test
- A judge ruled that you are the father
- Scientific, anthropological or medical evidence says you are the father
Notice that only one of those methods is a paternity test. This means you and your attorney have many ways to question paternity of the child you are raising, and many of them depend on social norms, paperwork, and simple statements. Nearly all of these paternity methods can be undone or countermanded.
Unlike many of the other methods of asserting paternity, a genetic test cannot be undone. Once the results are in, they are in — you cannot “take back” paternity if the genes say you are the Dad. Virginia’s standard of performance here is very high: 98 percent probability.
To put that in perspective, if Jeff Lawson, chief meteorologist for 13News Now, says the day brings a 98 percent chance of rain, would you leave your umbrella at home? If the test says a 98 percent probability exists that you are the father, will you still deny it?
Rescinding Paternity Claims
Under Virginia Code § 20-49.1 the methods of asserting paternity, other than gene testing, can be rescinded. The voluntary oath of paternity, for instance, can be withdrawn within sixty days of making it. Paternity claims can also be rescinded if the original statements are shown to be false, obtained by duress, or through a lie.
Virginia Paternity Establishment Program (VPEP)
Virginia has a Virginia Paternity Establishment Program (VPEP) that works to establish paternity in all cases from the moment of a child’s birth. The mother-child relationship is biologically obvious, but Virginia has an enormous social and financial interest in establishing the father-child relationship.
VPEP seeks to entice Virginia men to sign off on an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form or submit to genetic testing. Only the AOP can be rescinded, within the sixty days mentioned earlier. A DNA test is final.
How To Challenge Paternity
In challenging paternity of a child, you have to be willing to submit to genetic testing, since it is the single method that is conclusive proof either for or against you.
If you and the child’s mother are unmarried, you have four ways to get the genetic testing done:
- Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) offers an $81 DNA kit
- LabCorp offers reduced price testing ($71 per person) for adults under the Virginia Referral Program (a hospital registrar must refer you)
- You may use private laboratories
- You can use a local family law attorney to arrange DNA testing
Of those four methods, only the last one creates a legal relationship advocating on your behalf. The other three methods of questioning paternity through DNA testing are impartial. Typical testing is through a cheek swab, with results compared to DNA from the child.
Rather than attempt to lay responsibility on another man, first rule yourself out as the father, then leave to the mother and the courts any assignment of paternity.
Once your disestablishment of paternity is … er … established … you are free of financial responsibilities for the child, but to avoid psychological harm to the child, clear up any questions about paternity within the first months of the child’s life. The longer you wait, the harder will be the painful separation.
Doubts about your paternity can drive you cuckoo. For the most accurate, honest and candid help with child paternity, turn to the professionals of The Firm For Men. When you contact us online, or telephone our offices at 757-383-9184, we will listen, we will help, and we will defend your rights.