Unwed couples that embark on the journey of parenthood should always make every attempt to establish paternity. There are certain rights that a mother, father, child, and in some cases grandparents, have that can only be established through properly filed paternity claims. In Pennsylvania, paternity can be established either voluntarily or involuntarily until the child reaches 18 years of age.
Voluntarily Established Paternity
When the mother and father are in agreement that the father is the biological parent, a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form can be signed, in front of a witness, to ensure that everyone can build a relationship with their child, regardless of the outcome of the relationship. This process is typically taken care of at the hospital, and once the paperwork is filed properly with the Department of Public Welfare, the father becomes the legal father of the child.
If the mother and father do not agree, the father can still sign the form and have it put on file, without the mother's signature. However, this does not give the father rights for items such as custody or visitation, but the father will be notified if any attempt is made by another party to adopt the child. Further legal action must be pursued to establish paternity involuntarily.
Involuntarily Established Paternity
When one party or the other disputes the paternity claim, a Petition to Determine Paternity form or a child support case must be filed to start the proceedings. DNA testing may be ordered by the court to determine paternity if either party disputes the claim. If the court finds the father to be the biological father, that individual's name will be added to the birth certificate, rights will become established, and that person will be deemed the child's legal father.
Always Keep The Best Interest Of Your Child In Mind
Establishing paternity ensures that your child has the opportunity to build bonds with both parents, regardless of the status of their relationship. Parents have legal rights, but they also have responsibilities. In some cases, this is the only way for one parent to receive needed support for their child. This may seem like a difficult and challenging task, but it is a necessity for the well-being of your child.