Birth records in Virginia were not required before 1912. In some ways, life was simpler then. A kid was your kid if you said she was your kid, and who was going to argue? With birth certificates, things got complicated and, sometimes, a little dicey. What if you put your name on the birth certificate and then found out you are not the father?
Critical Information on the Acknowledgement of Paternity
Virginia’s Department of Social Services (DSS) oversees establishment of paternity in Virginia. A special form, the Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP), begins with the following direction:
“In order for the father’s name to appear on the birth certificate of a child born out of wedlock, both biological parents must complete and sign this statement in the presence of a notary public.”
In its own government-y way, that wording is a major signal that you should take the form seriously. This form is only for a child born out of wedlock, a situation reinforced by the signature portion of the form (with our added emphasis):
“We, being duly sworn, affirm that we are the biological parents of the child named above. This child was born out of wedlock … We have read and have had read to us the rights and responsibilities statement provided on the reverse of this document. We request that the father’s information be shown on this child’s birth certificate…”
For the man agreeing to paternity, the state gracefully reminds him of his obligations:
“3. I understand I will have the responsibility to provide support for my child.
4. I understand I will be responsible to pay such support until the child turns 18 years of age or beyond, if required by law.
5. I understand the Acknowledgment of Paternity may be used in any legal proceeding regarding my child.”
Surely the state gives a guy an out, right? Only one is listed:
“8. I understand that I have the right to rescind this acknowledgment within sixty days from the date of signing unless an administrative or judicial proceeding involving this child has taken place earlier.”
That is a mighty tight game clock, 60 days. What if the clock winds down and you find out the child really is not yours?
You signed the AOP.
Your name is on the birth certificate.
Everyone expects you to pay child support. Everyone:
- The child’s mother
- The Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS)
- The Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE)
- The Virginia Department of Taxation
- The Internal Revenue Service
That is a formidable array of forces potentially hostile to your attempt to remove yourself from a birth certificate. Do not take on this battle alone: get a family law attorney on your side.
Disestablishment of Paternity
Fortunately, besides the 60-day time limit on the AOP, two other Virginia laws do provide for changes to birth certificates, especially in cases of questioned paternity. The legal process is called disestablishment of paternity, and is the first step to having your name taken off a Virginia birth certificate.
The exact law is § 20-49.10, “Relief from legal determination of paternity,” and is enforceable only if a genetic test proves to the court’s satisfaction that you are not the child’s father:
“… the court may set aside a final judgment, court order, administrative order, obligation to pay child support or any legal determination of paternity if a scientifically reliable genetic test performed in accordance with this chapter establishes the exclusion of the individual named as a father in the legal determination…”
Taking Your Name Off The Birth Certificate
With a court order in hand, you and your family law attorney can press both the mother and DCSE to find the child’s true father. While that process is plugging along, your best next move is to implement Virginia Code § 32.1-269 to amend the birth certificate by getting your name removed. The new birth certificate will read “Amended” and will not show any father. You will no longer be the father of record.
Once the child’s true father is found through genetic testing (not your problem, btw), a new birth certificate may also be issued under Code of Virginia § 32.1-261, handily titled (with our emphasis), “New certificate of birth established on proof of adoption, legitimization or determination of paternity, or change of sex.”
The state of Virginia is not going to lift a finger, flip open a file folder, or move a mouse to help you. It simply is not a good use of the state’s resources to actively investigate the legitimacy of a signed AOP. Unless you push back, the state will roll with what it’s got: you are the father. Pushback within the 60 days or afterwards is entirely up to you and your experienced, hard-working family law attorney.
From simple to complex family law issues facing men in Virginia, The Firm For Men is the answer. Contact us online or by telephoning our Virginia Beach offices at (757) 383-9184. We can untangle the thorniest issues, including problems with paternity, birth certificates, and those amazing Virginia government forms.