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Are you an unmarried mother who is interested in receiving child support from your child’s father? Or, are you an unmarried man and a woman is telling you that you are her child’s father and that she’ll be seeking child support? Either way, you may be wondering if the family court can issue a child support order when the parents are not married and paternity has not been established – this is a valid question indeed!

For starters, let’s define “paternity.” In Pennsylvania, when a child is born to unmarried parents, the child and father do NOT have a legal relationship until paternity is established. Paternity refers to the legal relationship between a man and his child. What does this mean? It means that until paternity is confirmed, the court cannot issue orders for child support or child custody.

No Paternity: No Court-Ordered Child Support

It is very common for a child to be born to unmarried parents and for the father to voluntarily help support the child. He may do this in the form of giving cash to the child’s mother, buying diapers and formula, or helping out with the mother’s bills. While he may be doing the “right” thing, he is not legally required to help support the child until paternity is established, but at the same time, he can’t ask for custody rights.

If the mother is not in the mood to let him see his child or if she doesn’t want him to be in the child’s life, the presumed or alleged father would have to establish paternity then if paternity is confirmed, he’d ask the court to issue orders for child custody or visitation.

Key ways to establish paternity in Pennsylvania:

  • The mother and father voluntarily sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form (AOP form) at the hospital shortly after the child’s birth.
  • The father goes to the county Domestic Relations Section (DOS) and signs an Acknowledgement of Paternity/Wavier of Trial form.
  • The court orders a DNA test.

Whether you’re a mother seeking child support or a father seeking custody or visitation rights, either way, paternity will have to be established before the court can issue an order. Until then, the father by law has no rights or responsibilities toward his child.

Next: Can Child Support Be Terminated?

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