Do I Have To Prove Paternity as an Unmarried Couple in Vermont?
What are an unmarried fathers’ rights to child custody and visitation?
In order for the father’s rights and responsibilities to the children to be established, a paternity action must be filed in a Vermont family court. This could be a mutual act, because the parties agree that they both want to remain in the children’s lives, or it could be by Dad, because he wants to establish his parental rights, or by Mom, because child support is not required until such an Order is instituted. It could even be a combination of the above. Whatever the reason, once paternity is established, two things are certain: Dad will, at a minimum, have court ordered, enforceable visitation with the kids and maybe, depending on circumstances, custody; and Dad will be responsible for his share of child support.
Is a DNA test always required to prove paternity as an unmarried couple?
In the typical case where the parties have no doubt as to paternity and are both thinking as to the best interests of the children, no DNA test is performed and paternity is simply agreed to. The parties sign the necessary documents and the court issues an Order of Paternity. The parents then move on to discussing custody and parent-child contact. If they are not able to agree to paternity, for whatever reason, not least of which is that a genuine doubt existing as to parentage, then it is incumbent upon the parties to have a DNA test conducted. This is a minimally intrusive test involving the swabbing of the inner cheek of the child with a Q-tip. Who must request the test depends on whether a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage is in place.
If one is not in place then the presumption under the law is that the child is not the father’s and he must petition for a test to be done. If such an acknowledgment is in place then the burden is the mother’s to prove that the child is not the father’s. She must request the test. In all cases nothing is official until the court issues an order reflecting the parentage determination. Once this step is completed then the parties proceed along the same path as a married couple in resolving parental rights and responsibilities and parent-child contact.
If you are currently facing legal issues going through a split as an unmarrried couple, please contact experienced Vermont family attorney, Kevin Volz at 802.775.0700.