Under the applicable laws in Pennsylvania, when a child is born to an unmarried mother, there is generally no legal relationship between the biological, or presumed, father and the child unless: (i) both parents have signed a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form; (ii) the presumed biological father signs an Acknowledgment of Paternity and Waiver of Trial form with the County Domestic Relations Office having jurisdiction over the parties; or (iii) a Court with jurisdiction over the matter and the involved parties enters an Order that establishes the identity of the legal father of the child, which is not necessarily always the biological father.
Often times, however, there is a disagreement between the mother and the presumed father regarding paternity of a child. In some instances, the mother may be denying the paternity of a man who believes himself to be and/or purports to be the biological father. In other instances, a man who is believed to be the father may be denying that he is, in fact, the biological father of the child.
In such instances, the assistance and involvement of the courts becomes necessary to determine paternity of a child – whether thru genetic testing, more commonly known as a “paternity test”, and/or a combination of genetic testing and a hearing on the merits.
If you happen to be challenging and/or disputing paternity of a child, whether you are the mother or the presumed father, it is extremely important that you do not do anything which might be deemed to establish paternity, such as signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity/Waiver of Trial form, as the man signing may thereafter be presumed, rightly or wrongly, to be the biological father of the child and both parties may be forever barred from challenging the paternity of the child. In such instances, a genetic test is the most important and best method by which to determine paternity of the child in question.
Genetic testing is only definitive, however, for purposes of excluding an individual believed to be the father of a child. Genetic testing is not a definite and/or conclusive method by which to confirm paternity. On the contrary, it is a procedure which merely identifies whether there is a biological relationship or genetic match of some kind between the presumed father and the child by comparing their DNA.
Absent agreement between the parties regarding paternity of the father that was tested, based upon the results of the genetic test, either party is entitled to and may choose to proceed with a hearing on the merits, at which time the results of the genetic test, as well as other evidence, may be introduced at trial in order that the Court may decide the issue of paternity as a matter of law.
In addition to the moral and other personal obligations, there are far-reaching and very significant legal consequences associated with a determination of paternity, including, but not necessarily limited to: (i) entitlement to health insurance thru the purported father’s employer; (ii) entitlement to Social Security, and other governmental benefits, if the presumed father becomes disabled or dies; (iii) right of the child to inheritance upon the death of the presumed father; and (iv) right of the child to support from the presumed father until the child is deemed to be emancipated under the applicable laws in Pennsylvania.
Accordingly, should you be involved in a situation wherein the paternity of a child is at issue, whether you be the mother or the father, it is extremely important that you consult with an attorney who is familiar with and has experience in this area of the law, in order to ensure that your rights, as well as those of the child, are properly protected.
Contact the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP
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