The process of establishing paternity in PA
The process of establishing paternity in Pennsylvania is relatively straightforward in most cases, but it can become more complex when certain factors come into play. Either by agreement or legal assumption, the paternity of a child is often straightforward. However, in some instances, the process takes a different turn because either the father denies his paternity or the mother challenges his claim to paternity. This can lead to a situation known as involuntary paternity, which may require court intervention and even genetic testing.
The Importance of Establishing Paternity in Pennsylvania
Establishing paternity has advantages for everyone involved. From an emotional perspective, children benefit from having a father in their lives, while fathers gain the opportunity to nurture an ongoing parent-child relationship and may exercise specific custody or visitation rights.
The child also gains other advantages from this process, including eligibility for health and life insurance. If the mother has primary custody, she may receive child support, which helps in providing for the child’s basic needs.
Pennsylvania recognizes the “doctrine of paternity by estoppel,” which means that acting as a parent to a child establishes legal parenthood, regardless of biological relation. This can result in being ordered to pay child support for a non-biological child. In a 2012 case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a biological mother’s spouse could be required to pay support for a child conceived during an extramarital affair. The court’s goal is to protect the child’s best interests and maintain family unity.
When is it Necessary to Establish Paternity in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the courts automatically assume paternity when the parents are legally married at the time of the child’s birth. The hospital will automatically include the father’s name on the baby’s birth certificate, establishing him as the child’s legal father. If the parents are not married or if the birth occurs outside this specific time frame, paternity must be established voluntarily or through a court-ordered paternity action.
The Process to Voluntarily Establish Paternity in Pennsylvania
When both the mother and father agree that they are the child’s parents, they can acknowledge this by signing a document to officially establish paternity. Often, this document is signed at the hospital shortly after the child’s birth, and the father’s name is added to the birth certificate at that time. Alternatively, the forms can be signed at a later date, and the courts will then update the birth certificate to include the legal father’s name.
In Pennsylvania, the document used for this purpose is the “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity,” or Form PA-CS 611. While it must be signed in front of an adult witness, it does not require notarization. Once completed, the form should be filed with the Department of Public Welfare.
The Process for Involuntary Paternity Establishment in Pennsylvania
Establishing paternity involuntarily in Pennsylvania is more intricate. In cases where both parties do not agree on paternity, a court order is required to determine paternity following a paternity dispute.
A petition to determine paternity can be filed by:
- The mother
- A man seeking to prove paternity
In many cases, this petition merely seeks the court’s intervention to establish paternity. In some instances, however, when the mother files a complaint for child support, it becomes necessary to determine the father’s identity.
If the dispute persists, the court may order a DNA test, comparing the child’s and father’s DNA. These tests are minimally invasive, requiring only a small saliva sample. Parents can also request this testing before the court issues an order.
Based on the test results, the court will determine the legal relationship between the man and the child. If the samples match 95 percent or more, the court will issue an order of paternity, and the father’s name will be added to the amended birth certificate. Subsequently, the mother can file for a child support order, and the parents can negotiate an appropriate parenting plan or custody schedule.
If you have questions about your Pennsylvania child support obligations or how the doctrine of paternity by estoppel may apply to your situation, contact Petrelli Previtera at 866-465-5395. We are happy to help.