Introduction to Pennsylvania paternity laws

It can be important to all involved to establish legal fatherhood.

There are many reasons that people may want to establish legal paternity of a child. The mother can pursue child support and help with the child's medical care. The father will be able to seek custody or visitation - ways to build a parental relationship. The child will have a sense of who they are, access to medical history and rights to inheritance, insurance coverage and public benefits as well as the opportunity to know the father and his extended family.

Impact of marriage

In Pennsylvania, if a married woman has a child, the husband is legally presumed to be the father. This presumption may be overcome in some situations. So too, for purposes of benefits for the child, paternity is established if the unmarried parents of a child later marry.

In addition, for purposes of child benefits, paternity is established if the father treats the child as his own publicly and either supports the child or receives them into his residence, or there is other clear and convincing evidence of fatherhood.

Unmarried mother via form

If the mother is unmarried, paternity may be established using an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. The mother and father may execute the form together, or the father can sign the form alone, if the mother refuses. When a man signs the form alone, he does not establish legal paternity, but he gets the right to notification of any legal proceedings that concern the child. The state will consider the form a claim for paternity by the signer.

A person may rescind an AOP form within 60 days or by the date of a legal proceeding related to the child, whichever is earlier. After 60 days, the only way to rescind the form is to present clear and convincing evidence to a court that it was signed because of "fraud, duress or material mistake of fact."

Legal matters and proceedings

A man who believes he is the father of a child may contact the county Domestic Relations Section, called DRS, the child support enforcement office of the local court, to request a DNA test. Paternity may also be determined in the court system, where the judge may order a DNA test. If a party refuses testing, the court can adjudicate paternity against that person.

This is a basic introduction to a detailed area of Pennsylvania law. Consult an attorney for questions about paternity matters.

Attorney Joseph Guillama in Reading, Pennsylvania, represents clients in paternity matters throughout Berks County, including mothers, fathers and men opposing paternity allegations.