Establishing Paternity and the Role of Fatherhood
stablishing paternity is an important step for unmarried parents that enables the man to create a legal relationship with his child. The effect of this legal relationship is that the child becomes eligible to receive child support and other benefits that children receive from their parents, such as inheritance and insurance. In addition, establishing paternity guarantees that a father’s rights are protected in the event that the man’s relationship with the mother ends.
In Pennsylvania, paternity is automatically established if the child’s parents are married. However, if the child’s parents are unmarried and the father wishes to have the full benefits and legal rights of fatherhood, paternity must be established.
One way to establish paternity is voluntarily. To voluntarily acknowledge paternity, the mother and the possible father must sign and file an Acknowledgment of Paternity from. Once this document is submitted, paternity is conclusively established. This means the man who signed the form has all the legal rights and obligations inherent in fatherhood. This method of establishing paternity is quite common because of the ease with which the process can be completed. There is no DNA test or court approval needed for this method, so it is fairly quick and inexpensive.
The other way to establish paternity is involuntarily, meaning that it is achieved through a court proceeding, usually a child support action. The most common scenario is when the child’s mother initiates a support action and needs to establish that the defendant in the support action is the child’s father, and is therefore obligated to support the child.
It is also possible for a prospective father to bring suit against a child’s mother in order to establish paternity. This occurs when a man believes he is the father of a child, but the mother denies that the man is the father and will not consent to a paternity test. To establish paternity in this manner, the man files a Complaint to Establish Paternity. In this Complaint, the man must allege that he believes he may be the natural father of the child. He can also include a request for DNA testing to establish paternity, but there is no automatic right to such a test. Instead, a judge will determine whether the facts of the case indicate that there is a potential for the man to be the father and that DNA testing is appropriate. If the test determines that the man is the biological father of the child, the court will enter an Order of Paternity, granting the man all the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood and adding his name to the birth certificate.
Many people are surprised to learn that a man can also be determined to be the legal father of a child if he holds the child out as his own regardless of whether there is an actual biological relationship. This means that the man acts as though the child is his, for example, by spending time with the child, telling others the child is his, or if the child calls him dad. Once paternity is established in this manner, even DNA is not admissible to contradict paternity, and he is, therefore, obligated to continue supporting the child.
If you need to establish paternity in order to receive child support or to protect your rights as the legal father of your child, the lawyers at Masorti Law Group can help. We have years of experience in all aspects of family law, including paternity, and we understand how important it is to protect your relationship with your children. Contact Us Now!