Dwayne Parsons knows what paternity fraud feels like. He will go on knowing for the next 1,913 years, after a Chester, Virginia judge ordered him to pay past child support payments on a child legally proven not to be his, at the rate of $1 a month1. Though he had been falsely accused of paternity for the child since 2000, he was also still on the hook for child support, so the judge imposed the creative sentence. When a Virginia woman names a Virginia man as the father of a child she bears, and he adds his name to the child’s birth certificate, a legal bond is formed. In some cases the mother may sincerely believe the man is the father; in other cases — far too common — she names him knowing he is definitely not the father. What recourse does a man have when he is the victim of paternity fraud? Can you get your name removed from the birth certificate? What options do you have in the Commonwealth?
Virginia’s Birth Certificate & The Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)
Establishing paternity in Virginia creates a legal relationship between father and child. As Virginia’s Department of Social Services explains it, the mother who identifies a particular man as the father of her child is giving that man legal rights and responsibilities to the child:
- The father is legally responsible for child support
- The father can request visitation rights (in the case of a single mother)
- The child gains legal protections, such as a share of social security, veteran’s or disability benefits; rights to inheritance; and rights to medical and insurance benefits
The woman who thoroughly convinces a Virginia man that he is the child’s father may get him to agree to sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) at the hospital, in which case his name is automatically put on the child’s birth certificate. This same form can be completed by calling (or visiting in person) the Office of Vital Records in Richmond, local child support offices, local health department clinics, or local departments of social services.
Under Virginia law § 32.1-257, and at § 63.2-1233, a man married to a woman is presumed to be the father of a child she bears, even if she knows he is not the father. This means even married, faithful men need to be cautious about assuming their paternity.
If you suspect you may not be the father of your wife’s child, you are not required to sign the birth certificate, and the presumption of your paternity is what legally is called a “rebuttable presumption.” That is, it can be rebutted with evidence (through a good family law attorney). One type of evidence is genetic testing.
Why Lie About The Father of The Child?
Few Virginia women have a real excuse for falsely or mistakenly accusing a man of being her child’s father. The Division of Child Support Enforcement (DSCE) will help a mother who is uncertain of the father’s identity. DSS will contact potential fathers and offer genetic testing to help the mother establish paternity.
Many women may unknowingly name a man as a child’s father out of desperation, confusion, or genuine ignorance. Also, too, though, a Virginia woman may name a man she absolutely knows is not the father, for the sake of the child and her own protection, possibly from the child’s real father.
Whatever her motivations, she is committing paternity fraud if she knowingly compels a Virginia man to put his name to the birth certificate. In Code of Virginia § 20-49.1 the law permits a Virginia man to rescind his statement of paternity if he was the victim of “fraud, duress or a material mistake of fact,” but he will still have to request that his name be removed from the birth certificate. The new birth record will be completed in accordance with § 20-49.10, “Relief from legal determination of paternity.”
To navigate the often confusing waters of Virginia’s laws regarding paternity, do not go it alone. You can face years of difficulties and legal battles, like Dwayne Parsons endured, and you can face a lifetime of expenses if you are found legally responsible for a child. Enlist the services of a good family law firm, one with experience in fighting deliberately or unintentionally false charges of paternity.
One example of the puzzling traps of Virginia law: if you agree to have your name put on the birth certificate and you know you are not the child’s father, you cannot be granted relief from paternity (this is also under § 20-49.10).
Just as the birth certificate naming you as the father entitles the child to legal benefits, you are entitled to have your name removed from an incorrect birth record, but it must be done in accordance with Virginia law.
Call the Paternity Attorneys for Fathers
When you call 757-383-9184 to reach The Firm For Men, or contact us online, you can consult with a real family law attorney on just about anything related to paternity, child custody, and child support. We will listen to you, work with you to defend your rights as a Virginia man, and help you make sense of Virginia’s paternity laws.