According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40.7 percent of all births in Pennsylvania in 2016 were to unmarried mothers. This was just slightly higher than the national rate of 39.8 percent. This means that for four out of 10 newborns, there is potential ambiguity about the identity of the father. This ambiguity means that children can be denied support and men can be denied access to their children. Paternity actions are a way to rectify that situation. Richard J. Shiroff represents all interested parties — mothers, putative fathers and children — in actions to establish paternity. I protect your rights throughout the process and continue to offer guidance after paternity is established or ruled out.
Determining that a man is the father of a child matters for many reasons, which include:
None of these rights is legally enforceable until paternity is established voluntarily or involuntarily through a court order.
A father who is not married to his child’s mother may voluntarily establish paternity by filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form with the Department of Public Welfare (DPW). For the acknowledgement to have legal effect, the mother must also sign the form. No blood test or court appearance is necessary. However, the parents must work out an agreement on their parenting rights and responsibilities or they may have to proceed to court on those issues.
If the man has second thoughts, he has 60 days to file a written statement canceling the acknowledgement. After that, cancellation requires court action.
If the man named as the father denies responsibility for the child, the mother can begin a paternity action against the man. The court can order a DNA test, and if the results do not rule the man out, the court hears additional evidence to settle the issue. If the totality of the evidence establishes paternity, the mother generally asks the court for an order of support.
A man who wants access to his children can also initiate proceedings by filing a Complaint to Establish Paternity. The court can then order DNA testing for mother and child to see if the man is the true father.
If you need advice and counsel on a paternity issue, trust Richard J. Shiroff. I have more than 35 years of experience in Pennsylvania family law and serve clients in Northampton, Lehigh and Carbon counties. Call me at 610-253-1023 or contact me online to schedule an appointment. My office is located at 724 Lehigh Street, just a short walk from the Northampton County Courthouse.