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What is paternity exactly? It means to establish a child’s legal father. When a child is born to married parents, the law automatically assumes the woman’s husband is the child’s biological and legal father. But if a child is born to unwed parents, paternity must be legally established before orders for child support and child custody can be made.

“How is paternity legally established?” There are two ways for paternity to be legally established: 1) for the unwed mother and father to voluntarily sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form after the child’s birth (this is usually done at the hospital), or 2) by asking the court for genetic testing (DNA test).

Paternity & Divorce Issues

Sometimes, paternity is an issue for divorcing couples. For example, the couple could be getting a divorce because of an affair the wife had while married. In this situation, it’s common for the husband to want his wife to get a paternity test before agreeing to pay child support and raising the child as his own.

After all, by law, if a woman becomes pregnant while married, the law presumes that her husband is the child’s father and in without a paternity test, he is the one with the parental rights, even if he is not the child’s biological father.

Another scenario is where the couple separates and while waiting out Pennsylvania’s one-year separation period before filing for divorce, the wife becomes pregnant with another man’s baby. If she hasn’t been romantic with her husband, he’ll probably demand a paternity test so he doesn’t become the child’s legal father by default.

If there is any question over the paternity of a child, especially in the context of a divorce, it is wise to ask the court for a DNA test, but this cannot be done until after the child is born. Once paternity is established, the court can issue child custody and child support orders for the biological and legal father, whether he is the woman’s ex-husband or another man.

To learn more about paternity in Pennsylvania, click here.

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