Pittsburgh Paternity Lawyers
Over 20 Years of Experience Helping People in Allegheny County
Paternity is when someone is the legal father of a child. They are entitled to see their child, and ask the court for custody and visitation rights. The court may also give the father the right to participate in important decision-making for the child, like child’s religion, medical treatment, choice of school, and more. Establishing paternity imposes responsibilities upon the father because both parents are required to support the child, so proving paternity helps mothers sue for child support. If paternity is not established, the mother may not be able to seek child support.
Establishing paternity also gives the child rights, such as inheritance rights. If someone dies without a will, the estate or some portion of it will go to their decedents. If paternity is never established, the child will not be able to inherit. Paternity can also enable a child to benefit from the father’s insurance or health benefits. Establishing paternity can be vital for the mother, father, and even the child.
There are different situations where a father may want to establish paternity if a child. This includes a child born into an intact marriage, a child born to unmarried parents, along with other unique situations.
Children Born Into an Intact Marriage
When a child is born into an intact marriage in Pennsylvania, there is a presumption that the husband is the father of the child. This means that the husband, also referred to as the “presumptive father” is entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as the mother. Obviously, this doesn’t pose any issues if the husband is the biological father, but what if he isn’t?
Pennsylvania’s presumption can be challenging to overcome, but there are two exceptions. The first is if the husband was physically incapable of fathering the child (for example, he is infertile), and the second is where the husband was not near the mother at the time of conception. Other than showing those things, the presumption will probably stand. If a presumption of paternity exists, the real biological father cannot bring charges forward if the child was born to married parents, and their marriage is still intact. However, if the marriage is no longer intact, a third party who believes he is the biological father may challenge for paternity.
Children Born to Unmarried Parents
There are several ways to establish paternity when a child is born to unmarried parents. It can be done voluntarily with the permission of both parents, or involuntarily—meaning that one parent does not agree with the paternity. If the mother and father both agree, they can establish paternity voluntarily until the child turns 18.
One way to do this is by the mother and father both signing an acknowledgment of paternity. This can be done at the hospital immediately after the birth of the child or during support proceedings. Once the acknowledgment of paternity has been signed and filed with the Department of Public Welfare, the father becomes the legal parent of the child, and his name will be added to the birth certificate. The acknowledgment constitutes conclusive evidence of paternity, and no further DNA testing will be required.
If one of the parents does not want to not sign an acknowledgment of paternity, the other party may seek to establish paternity involuntarily by initiating court proceedings. If the father will not sign, the mother can file a Petition to Determine Paternity or a Complaint for Child Support with the Family Court. If father still denies paternity after the court proceedings are initiated, the court may order DNA testing to resolve the issue. A father can voluntarily submit to a DNA test or the court can compel the father to submit to a DNA test. If the father fails to appear for the test, the court has the power to enter an order of paternity as well as an interim order for child support. If paternity is confirmed by the DNA test, the court can issue an order of paternity.
Other Ways to Establish Paternity
There are a few other ways to establish paternity. For prescribing benefits to a child born outside of marriage in Pennsylvania, paternity can be established if the child’s parents eventually marry each other after having the child.
Pennsylvania also recognizes paternity by estoppel. This means that a man has acknowledged paternity through his own actions, such as supporting the mother and child financially, emotionally, or by accepting the child into his household. While paternity by estoppel usually occurs between unmarried parents, it can occur within a marriage as well. The primary consideration in this case is the best interest of the child. If a man has held himself out to be a child’s father, and then discovers that he isn’t actually the biological father, the court can estop him from denying his obligation to pay child support if it is unfair to the child.
In some cases, the wrong person is deemed the father of a child. For example, a husband later finds out he is not the father of his child, or someone who mistakenly thought he was the father signed an acknowledgment of paternity. Since paternity opens the door to many financial responsibilities, men can seek to disestablish paternity.
With divorce or annulment comes many issues, especially if there are children involved. A child’s right to be supported from both of his or her parents still stands, regardless if the child’s parents are married. So, upon divorce or annulment, a court may order the presumptive father to pay child support or grant him custody rights to the child. If the husband later finds out that he is not the father, he may try to avoid this financial obligation by disestablishing paternity. Since the presumption of paternity only stands if the marriage is intact, it is easier to overcome once the parties separate or divorce. The husband can raise this issue during proceedings for child support. In this case, the court may order genetic testing to resolve the issue.
After You Sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity
In Pennsylvania, both the mother and the father have a right to cancel an acknowledgment of paternity. However, this must be done within 60 days. After the 60 days have lapsed, an acknowledgment of paternity can only be challenged in court based on fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. An example of fraud would be the mother inducing the father into signing the acknowledgment knowing that he is not the real father. While the paternity is being challenged, the court will probably not suspend any support orders already in place.
Contact Our Pittsburgh Paternity Attorneys Today!
For more information on this topic or any topic in divorce, custody, mediation, child support, collaborative law, contact Notaro Epstein Family Law Group, P.C.. We have Over 20 Years of experience helping people in Allegheny County with their family law issues. We understand how difficult family law issues can be, that is why our attorneys work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the best possible results for your case. Whether you need legal assistance establishing or disestablishing paternity, it is vital to have an experienced attorney on your side—and that is Notaro Epstein Family Law Group, P.C..
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