Virginia Paternity Law

Paternity – General – Virginia

Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law applicable to an action to establish Paternity in the State of Virginia, but does include basic and other provisions.


Code of Virginia
Chapter 3.1 Proceedings to Determine Parentage

§§20-49.1 to 20.49.10

§ 20-49.1. How parent and child relationship established. (1998)

A. The parent and child relationship between a child and a woman may be established prima facie by proof of her having given birth to the child, or as otherwise provided in this chapter.

B. The parent and child relationship between a child and a man may be established by:

1. Scientifically reliable genetic tests, including blood tests, which affirm at least a ninety-eight percent probability of paternity. Such genetic test results shall have the same legal effect as a judgment entered pursuant to § 20-49.8.

2. A voluntary written statement of the father and mother made under oath acknowledging paternity and confirming that prior to signing the acknowledgment, the parties were provided with a written and oral description of the rights and responsibilities of acknowledging paternity and the consequences arising from a signed acknowledgment, including the right to rescind. The acknowledgement may be rescinded by either party within sixty days from the date on which it was signed unless an administrative or judicial order relating to the child in an action to which the party seeking rescission was a party is entered prior to the rescission. A written statement shall have the same legal effect as a judgment entered pursuant to § 20-49.8 and shall be binding and conclusive unless, in a subsequent judicial proceeding, the person challenging the statement establishes that the statement resulted from fraud, duress or a material mistake of fact. In any subsequent proceeding in which a statement acknowledging paternity is subject to challenge, the legal responsibilities of any person signing it shall not be suspended during the pendency of the proceeding, except for good cause shown. Written acknowledgments of paternity made under oath by the father and mother prior to July 1, 1990, shall have the same legal effect as a judgment entered pursuant to § 20-49.8.

3. In the absence of such acknowledgment or if the probability of paternity is less than ninety-eight percent, such relationship may be established as otherwise provided in this chapter.

C. The parent and child relationship between a child and an adoptive parent may be established by proof of lawful adoption.

§ 20-49.2. Commencement of action; parties; jurisdiction. (2008)
Proceedings under this chapter may be instituted upon petition, verified by oath or affirmation, filed by a child, a parent, a person claiming parentage, a person standing in loco parentis to the child or having legal custody of the child or a representative of the Department of Social Services or the Department of Juvenile Justice.

The child may be made a party to the action, and if he is a minor and is made a party, he shall be represented by a guardian ad litem appointed by the court in accordance with the procedures specified in § 16.1-266 or § 8.01-9. The child’s mother or father may not represent the child as guardian or otherwise. The determination of the court under the provisions of this chapter shall not be binding on any person who is not a party.

The circuit courts shall have concurrent original jurisdiction of cases arising under this chapter with the juvenile and domestic relations district courts when the parentage of a child is at issue in any matter otherwise before the circuit court. The determination of parentage, when raised in any proceeding, shall be governed by this chapter.

§ 20-49.3. Admission of genetic tests. (1997)

A. In the trial of any matter in any court in which the question of parentage arises, the court, upon its own motion or upon motion of either party, may and, in cases in which child support is in issue, shall direct and order that the alleged parents and the child submit to scientifically reliable genetic tests including blood tests. The motion of a party shall be accompanied by a sworn statement either (i) alleging paternity and setting forth facts establishing a reasonable possibility of the requisite sexual contact between the parties or (ii) denying paternity.

B. The court shall require the person requesting such genetic test, including a blood test, to pay the cost. However, if such person is indigent, the Commonwealth shall pay for the test. The court may, in its discretion, assess the costs of the test to the party or parties determined to be the parent or parents.

C. The results of a scientifically reliable genetic test, including a blood test, may be admitted in evidence when contained in a written report prepared and sworn to by a duly qualified expert, provided the written results are filed with the clerk of the court hearing the case at least fifteen days prior to the hearing or trial. Verified documentary evidence of the chain of custody of the blood specimens is competent evidence to establish the chain of custody. Any qualified expert performing such test outside the Commonwealth shall consent to service of process through the Secretary of the Commonwealth by filing with the clerk of the court the written results. Upon motion of any party in interest, the court may require the person making the analysis to appear as a witness and be subject to cross-examination, provided that the motion is made at least seven days prior to the hearing or trial. The court may require the person making the motion to pay into court the anticipated costs and fees of the witness or adequate security for such costs and fees..

§ 20-49.4. Evidence relating to parentage. (1992)
The standard of proof in any action to establish parentage shall be by clear and convincing evidence. All relevant evidence on the issue of paternity shall be admissible. Such evidence may include, but shall not be limited to, the following:

1. Evidence of open cohabitation or sexual intercourse between the known parent and the alleged parent at the probable time of conception;

2. Medical or anthropological evidence relating to the alleged parentage of the child based on tests performed by experts. If a person has been identified by the mother as the putative father of the child, the court may, and upon request of a party shall, require the child, the known parent, and the alleged parent to submit to appropriate tests;

3. The results of scientifically reliable genetic tests, including blood tests, if available, weighted with all the evidence;

4. Evidence of the alleged parent consenting to or acknowledging, by a general course of conduct, the common use of such parent’s surname by the child;

5. Evidence of the alleged parent claiming the child as his child on any statement, tax return or other document filed by him with any state, local or federal government or any agency thereof;

6. A true copy of an acknowledgment pursuant to § 20-49.5; and

7. An admission by a male between the ages of fourteen and eighteen pursuant to § 20-49.6.

§ 20-49.5. Support of children of unwed parents by the father; testimony under oath. (1988)
Whenever in any legal proceedings a man voluntarily testifies under oath or affirmation that he is the father of a child whose parents are not married, or are not married to each other, the court may require that he complete an acknowledgment of paternity on a form provided by the Department of Social Services. This acknowledgment shall be sent by the clerk of the court within thirty days of completion to the Department of Social Services.

In any proceeding under this chapter, the petitioner may request a true copy of this form from the Department of Social Services and the Department shall remit such form to the court where the petition has been filed. Such true copy of an acknowledgment of paternity shall then be admissible in any proceeding under this chapter.

§ 20-49.6. Proceedings to establish paternity or enforce support obligations of males between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. (1988)
In any proceeding to establish or enforce an obligation for support and maintenance of a child of unwed parents, a male between the ages of fourteen and eighteen who is represented by a guardian ad litem pursuant to § 8.01-9 and who has not otherwise been emancipated shall not be deemed to be under a disability as provided in § 8.01-2. The court may enter an order establishing the paternity of the child based upon an admission of paternity by such male made under oath before the court or upon such other evidence as may be sufficient in law to support a finding of paternity. The order may provide for support and maintenance of the child by the father and shall be enforceable as if the father were an adult.

§ 20-49.7. Civil actions. (1997)
An action brought under this chapter is a civil action. The natural parent and the alleged parent are competent to testify. Testimony of a physician concerning the medical circumstances of the pregnancy and the condition and characteristics of the child upon birth shall not be privileged. Bills for expenses incurred for pregnancy, childbirth and genetic testing shall be admissible as prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein, without requiring third-party foundation testimony if the party offering such evidence is under oath.

§ 20-49.8. Judgment or order; costs; birth record. (1988)

A. A judgment or order establishing parentage may include any provision directed against the appropriate party to the proceeding, concerning the duty of support, including an equitable apportionment of the expenses incurred on behalf of the child from the date the proceeding under this chapter was filed with the court against the alleged parent or, if earlier, the date an order of the Department of Social Services entered pursuant to Title 63.2 and directing payment of support was delivered to the sheriff or process server for service upon the obligor. The judgment or order may be in favor of the natural parent or any other person or agency who incurred such expenses provided the complainant exercised due diligence in the service of the respondent. The judgment or order may also include provisions for the custody and guardianship of the child, visitation privileges with the child, or any other matter in the best interest of the child. In circumstances where the parent is outside the jurisdiction of the court, the court may enter a further order requiring the furnishing of bond or other security for the payment required by the judgment or order. The judgment or order may direct either party to pay the reasonable and necessary unpaid expenses of the mother’s pregnancy and delivery or equitably apportion the unpaid expenses between the parties. However, when the Commonwealth, through the Medicaid program, has paid such expenses, the court may order reimbursement to the Commonwealth for such expenses.

B. A determination of paternity made by any other state shall be given full faith and credit, whether established through voluntary acknowledgment or through administrative or judicial process; provided, however, that, except as may otherwise be required by law, such full faith and credit shall be given only for the purposes of establishing a duty to make payments of support and other payments contemplated by subsection A.

C. For each court determination of parentage made under the provisions of this chapter, a certified copy of the order or judgment shall be transmitted to the State Registrar of Vital Records by the clerk of the court within thirty days after the order becomes final. Such order shall set forth the full name and date and place of birth of the person whose parentage has been determined, the full names of both parents, including the maiden name, if any, of the mother and the name and address of an informant who can furnish the information necessary to complete a new birth record. In addition, when the State Registrar receives a document signed by a man indicating his consent to submit to scientifically reliable genetic tests, including blood tests, to determine paternity and the genetic test results affirming at least a ninety-eight percent probability of paternity, a new birth record shall be completed as provided in § 32.1-261. When the State Registrar receives a copy of a judgment or order for a person born outside of this Commonwealth, such order shall be forwarded to the appropriate registration authority in the state of birth or the appropriate federal agency.

§ 20-49.9. [Repealed, 2002]

§ 20-49.10. Relief from legal determination of paternity. (2001)
An individual may file a petition for relief and, except as provided herein, 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. The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interest of the child. The petitioner shall pay the costs of such test. A court that sets aside a determination of paternity in accordance with this section shall order completion of a new birth record and may order any other appropriate relief, including setting aside an obligation to pay child support. No support order may be retroactively modified, but may be modified with respect to any period during which there is a pending petition for relief from a determination of paternity, but only from the date that notice of the petition was served on the nonfiling party.

A court shall not grant relief from determination of paternity if the individual named as father (i) acknowledged paternity knowing he was not the father, (ii) adopted the child, or (iii) knew that the child was conceived through artificial insemination.

Inside Virginia Paternity Law