For years, if you had ever in Virginia acknowledged a child as yours, even if you later got a paternity test that proved the child wasn’t yours, the child was still yours legally. The Virginia courts would not let you out of child support primarily, but that law has finally been changed. If you get a paternity test, and prove the child isn’t yours, then you don’t have custody of the child anymore. That’s one wrinkle.
The other wrinkle is that on the other side of it, Virginia custody statutes have been enlarged to include what are called persons with a legitimate interest in the custody of the child, which would be essentially a parent in this position who thought the child was his, raised the child as his, and then finds out, “Oh, it’s not my child.” Then the child may or may not know that the father is not his or her father. That person has a legitimate custody interest, and they can petition for custody, and to stop relocation, just as a biological parent would, and the same factors apply.
Those cases tend to turn on whether the child knows that the person is not their biological parent, and whether that’s already had an effect on the relationship or not. There are cases where the non-biological parent gets custody of the child because they are actually bonded more closely to the child than the biological parent. Rare, but it happens.
Carolyn Grimes is a family lawyer at the law firm of Wade Grimes Friedman Sutter & Leischner PLLC in Alexandria, Virginia. To learn more about Grimes and her firm, visit www.oldtownlawyers.com.