Written by attorney Mary Katherine Brown

What should an unmarried father in the U.S. Virgin Islands know about parenting and the law?

In the Virgin Islands, there is no legal definition of "Father" in any of the relevant statutes pertaining to paternity. Nevertheless, each of the excerpted statutes below relates to the rights of unmarried fathers.

Paternity Registry Ann. Code tit. 16, § 292

Paternity may be voluntarily established through the execution of an Acknowledgment of Paternity. The Acknowledgment of Paternity shall be the exclusive means to voluntarily establish paternity of children born out of wedlock, outside of the court and administrative process as set out in this chapter. An Acknowledgment of Paternity, if completed in compliance with the requirements of this section, shall be considered a conclusive legal finding of paternity with the same force and effect as a court or administrative adjudication of paternity and without the necessity of a court or hearing officer ratification.

All birthing hospitals and facilities shall provide the biological parents of children born out of wedlock, with focus on the period immediately before or after the birth of a child, with the opportunity to voluntarily acknowledge paternity of such child through the signing of an Acknowledgment of Paternity.

Any Acknowledgment of Paternity completed pursuant to this section, whether at a birthing hospital or facility or any other specified location, shall be filed with the appropriate Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, within 30 days of signing.

Alternate Means to Establish Paternity Ann. Code tit. 16, § 293

Proceedings under this chapter may be instituted by: (1) any female resident of the Virgin Islands who has delivered an out-of-wedlock child, (2) any male resident of the Virgin Islands who is alleging to be the father of an out-of-wedlock child, and/or (3) any legal custodian of an out-of-wedlock child. Proceedings can be instituted at any time before a child’s 18th birthday, and are commenced by the filing of a petition before the court alleging that the person named as the respondent, or the petitioner if the petitioner is a person alleging to be the child’s father, is the father of the child born out of wedlock. If both parties to a proceeding appear before the court and consent to the establishment of paternity of a child born out of wedlock, a respective order establishing paternity shall be issued.

In a contested paternity action, the court, on its own motion or on the motion of any party to the action shall order the mother, the putative father, and the child to submit to blood, genetic, or DNA tests by a duly qualified physician or laboratory. Test results shall constitute a conclusive presumption of paternity if the results indicate a statistical probability of paternity of 99 percent or higher.

Required Information Ann. Code tit. 16, § 292

The Acknowledgment of Paternity must be sworn to or affirmed by both parents of a child born out of wedlock before a duly authorized notary public, and it shall include a written notice of the alternatives to, legal consequences of, and the rights (including, if a parent is a minor, any rights afforded to minority status) and responsibilities that arise from signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity. This notice must be provided in writing and orally to both signatories prior to signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity.

Access to Information Ann. Code tit. 16, § 292

The court and the Paternity and Child Support Division shall forward a copy of all judicial or administrative adjudications of paternity, whether based on consent or not, to the appropriate Office of Vital Statistics. The Office of Vital Statistics shall maintain a record of all Acknowledgments of Paternity and all judicial and administrative adjudications of paternity and shall make such record available to the Paternity and Child Support Division in a manner consistent with applicable Federal law and regulations.

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