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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 at 866-465-5395. We are happy to help.

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I just want to say GREAT JOB! She is a no nonsense professional with years of experience that qualifies her as a skilled Family Law attorney. She is seasoned, sensitive, and most of all she cares. She made things easy for me. Definitely recommend!

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