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Paternity by Estoppel: Could You Be Forced to Pay Child Support for Your Ex’s Child?

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QUESTION: “Who has to pay child support?”

Traditionally, Pennsylvania has embraced the doctrine of paternity by estoppel. This means that the person who acts as a parent to a child id the child’s parent, even if they are not biologically related. DNA does not matter.

What does this mean for you if you cared for your spouse’s child as if the child was your own?  You could be ordered to pay child support for a child that is not biologically yours. This may be true even if the child was conceived during an extra-marital affair.

In 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on the case of K.E.M. v. P.C.S., No. 67 MAP 2011, 2012 WL 573635 (Pa. Feb. 21, 2012).  In this case, a biological mother, K.E.M. admitted to conceiving a child during an extramarital affair with P.C.S. DNA testing confirmed that K.E.M.’s husband was not the biological father of the child.

When K.E.M. and her spouse separated, she requested child support from P.C.S. P.C.S. argued that the mother’s had established a father-relationship with the child and that his role in the child’s life was minimal, so he should not pay support. The lower court and superior court dismissed the case for support from P.C.S. and upheld the court order requiring the mother’s former husband to pay support. However, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reversed the previous decisions and remanded the case to the lower court.  The Supreme Court informed the lower court that the purpose of paternity by estoppel in Pennsylvania is to keep families intact and protect the best interests of the child. This means that you can be ordered to pay child support for your spouse’s child if you served in a parental role and it is in the best interest of the child.

Do you have questions about your Pennsylvania child support obligations? Contact Petrelli Previtera, LLC at 866-465-5395. We are happy to help.

Resources for Contested Custody in New Jersey

At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, we offer helpful resources for contested custody cases in New Jersey. Our aim is to provide clarity and direction for complex family law matters. Topics covered include New Jersey’s custody laws, signs that indicate the need for a child custody lawyer, tips for preparing for a custody trial, and establishing paternity. Visit our website for more information on each topic.

For Child Support, we can answer questions on navigating a child’s name change, understanding child support add-ons, paying support for an adult child, and a parent’s duty to pay college expenses in NJ.

Please note that the information provided is for general guidance and should not substitute legal advice. Contact Petrelli Previtera, LLC for personalized advice tailored to your New Jersey custody case.

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Melinda Previtera, Esq. came highly recommended to our family. Her knowledge base, professionalism, and compassion paved the way for a successful outcome. Melinda is efficient, detailed, and informative. She helps manage expectations, and postures her client for a fair and equitable result. We are happy to recommend Melinda!

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