Paternity = Legal Fatherhood

Paternity (also called "fatherhood") is a legal relationship between a child and a man, even if he is not the biological father. 

For example: when two people are married and have a child during the marriage (even if conception took place before the marriage), the law says that the husband is the legal father.   

Only a Court can "un-establish" legal paternity.

Legal paternity can also be established when both parties sign a paternity affidavit.  

Finally, an adoption makes the adopting parents the new legal parents for all purposes.


Can Family Court terminate Rights?

The Family Court does not have the power to permanently take away a parent's rights. 

There are only two ways that this can be done.

1. If a Circuit Court terminates rights due to abuse/neglect.

2. The child is adopted.

The Family Court can restrict or even stop visitation under some circumstances but it always has the power to change/modify visitation in the future if either parent files a Petition for Modiication.



EXCERPTS FROM WEST VIRGINIA PATERNITY LAW  1. §48-24-101. Paternity proceedings. (a) A civil action to establish the paternity of a child and to obtain an order of support for the child may be instituted, by verified complaint, in the family court of the county where the child resides: Provided, That if such venue creates a hardship for the parties, or either of them, or if judicial economy requires, the court may transfer the action to the county where either of the parties resides. (b) A "paternity proceeding" is a summary proceeding, equitable in nature and within the domestic relations jurisdiction of the courts, wherein a family court upon the petition of the state or another proper party may intervene to determine and protect the respective personal rights of a child for whom paternity has not been lawfully established, of the mother of the child and of the putative father of the child. The parties to a paternity proceeding are not entitled to a trial by jury. (e) A paternity proceeding may be brought by any of the following persons: (1) An unmarried woman with physical or legal custody of a child to whom she gave birth; (2) A married woman with physical or legal custody of a child to whom she gave birth, if the complaint alleges that: (A) The married woman lived separate and apart from her husband preceding the birth of the child; (B) The married woman did not cohabit with her husband at any time during such separation and that such separation has continued without interruption; and (C) The respondent, rather than her husband, is the father of the child; (3) The state of West Virginia, including the bureau for child support enforcement; (4) Any person who is not the mother of the child but who has physical or legal custody of the child; (f) If a paternity proceeding is brought that names the father of the child as being someone other than the person whose name appears on the child's birth certificate, then the person bringing the action shall cause a copy of the verified complaint to be served on the person named as the father on the birth certificate. Service must be in accordance with rule 4 of the rules of civil procedure. (g) Blood or tissue samples taken pursuant to the provisions of this article may be ordered to be taken in such locations as may be convenient for the parties so long as the integrity of the chain of custody of the samples can be preserved. (h) A person who has sexual intercourse in this state submits to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state for a proceeding brought under this article with respect to a child who may have been conceived by that act of intercourse. Service of process may be perfected according to the rules of civil procedure. (i) When the person against whom the proceeding is brought has failed to plead or otherwise defend the action after proper service has been obtained, judgment by default shall be issued by the court as provided by the rules of civil procedure. §48-24-103. Medical testing procedures to aid in the determination of paternity. (a) Prior to the commencement of an action for the establishment of paternity, the bureau for child support enforcement may order the mother, her child and the man to submit to genetic tests to aid in proving or disproving paternity. The bureau may order the tests upon the request, supported by a sworn statement, of any person entitled to petition the court for a determination of paternity as provided in section one of this article. §48-24-104. Establishment of paternity and duty of support.(a) When the respondent, by verified responsive pleading, admits that the man is the father of the child and owes a duty of support, or if after a hearing on the merits, the court shall find, by clear and convincing evidence that the man is the father of the child, the court shall, subject to the provisions of subsection (c) of this section, order support in accordance with the support guidelines set forth in article 13-101, et seq., and the payment of incurred expenses as provided in subsection (e) of this section. (b) Upon motion by a party, the court shall issue a temporary order for child support pending a judicial determination of parentage if there is clear and convincing evidence of paternity on the basis of genetic tests or other scientifically recognized evidence. (c) Reimbursement support ordered pursuant to this section shall be limited to a period not to exceed thirty-six months prior to the service of notice of the commencement of paternity or support establishment... §48-24-106. Establishing paternity by acknowledgment of natural father. A written, notarized acknowledgment executed pursuant to the provisions of section ten, article five, chapter sixteen of this code legally establishes the man as the father of the child for all purposes and child support may be established in accordance with the support guidelines set forth in article 13-101, et seq.