How is Paternity established in Pennsylvania?

Paternity is the means by which legal fatherhood is determined. There are both rights and responsibilities that flow from this decision. Individual situations vary: this outline is not a substitute for seeking advice from an experience paternity lawyer.

For unmarried persons, paternity may be established in two ways, either voluntarily or involuntarily. When the mother and father agree that the father is in fact the biological father, paternity, both the father and mother must sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity.” This can be done at the hospital, through the County Assistance Office, or the Domestic Relations office. Once this is filed, the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate, and he will have all of the rights and duties of a father.

If a man signs an acknowledgment, but the mother does not, it can be filed as a claim of paternity. This does not give the father any rights to the child, but he is entitled to notice of any adoption proceedings.

Paternity can be established involuntarily, through a court proceeding – either in a case brought for that purpose, or as a side issue in a case filed for other purposes, such as a support case, or a Petition for Custody or Visitation.

If either the mother or the father denies paternity, the court will normally order DNA testing. In most cases, this will decide the matter: DNA testing is considered to be highly reliable.

Why should a parent establish paternity?

Establishing paternity means more than just having a father named on the child’s birth certificate. Paternity has financial implications, most obviously in terms of child support. It also has implications for other types of financial benefits, such as Social Security and Veteran’s Benefits. Paternity can also be important to establish inheritance rights. From the father’s point of view, establishing paternity provides a basis for him to pursue child custody or visitation issues.

If you have questions about establishing paternity in Pennsylvania, you should contact an experienced family law attorney.

What are the father’s rights?

There are two situations which come up regularly. If a man denies being the father, he has the right to have paternity established through DNA testing. There are a few exceptions to this rule; for example, if someone has previously signed an acknowledgment of paternity, or if he has been acting as the father for a significant period of time.

The other side of the coin involves someone who wants to be a part of his child’s life. Once paternity is established, he has all of the rights, and responsibilities of a parent. Pennsylvania law favors custodial arrangements that make it possible for the child to have a relationship with both parents. What type of custodial arrangement will be ordered depends on what is in the child’s best interests. The facts of each situation vary greatly.

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