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How is Paternity Determined in Pennsylvania?

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Though we tend to think of paternity in terms of biology and genetics, not every paternity issue is resolved by a blood test. There are many different reasons why a person would want to establish paternity and many different people who would want to do so as well.  Let’s take a look at some of the issues that surround paternity, and how paternity is determined.

The simplest method of establishing paternity is the one that is automatic: when a child is born to a married couple, the husband is automatically considered the father. This is true whether he is the biological father or not. In fact, if a third party who is the actual biological father attempts to claim paternity of a child they are not legally able to do so, and a woman who divorces her husband is not able to end his paternity of a child, even if she claims the child is not his.

If an unmarried woman delivers a child, she is not able to name a man as the child’s father without his signature and permission. If the father (or any man) wishes to establish himself as the child’s father, he can do so by filling out an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. If both the mother and the person claiming paternity sign the form and it is witnessed by a third party, it is a legally binding document that establishes the man as the father, whether he is the biological father or not (though there is a 60-day period in which a man can cancel his acknowledgment of paternity.

If a man believes himself to be a child’s father and wishes to establish paternity without the mother’s permission, he can submit an Acknowledgement of Paternity on his own. This does not automatically provide the right to custody but does mean that he will be notified if the child is put up for adoption. To establish paternal rights without the mother’s permission, a man can file a Petition To Determine Paternity with the Family Court. Likewise, a woman who wants a man to be financially responsible for a child that he has fathered can also file a Petition to Determine Paternity. This will begin the process of blood tests, swab test or other methods to obtain DNA samples.

If you need assistance with a paternity test issue, our family law attorneys can help. Contact us today to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.