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Custody Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Pennsylvania

Jena Malone, the star who played Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, has recently announced that she is expecting her first child with her boyfriend, Ethan DeLorenzo. Although the pair could not appear happier over the news, Ethan might find himself wondering what kind of custody or father's rights he has to the child, as he is not married to Jena.

If the pair were residents the Pennsylvania, the short answer would be that Ethan would have the same rights to his child as those of a married father. This includes the right and ability to make decisions regarding the child's health, education, safety, and any other decisions pertaining to the welfare of the child. However, there are intricacies involved in fathering a child out of wedlock that aren't an issue with married couples. This is because a presumption of paternity is created when a married man fathers a child; this presumption is not present when dealing with unmarried couples. This merely means that paternity has to be established in order for the unmarried father to be afforded the same rights as the married father. Paternity can be established in quite a few different ways.

Paternity can be established in the hospital after the baby's birth if the mother holds a man out to be the father of the child and the man willingly files an Affidavit of Paternity. The man's name will then be placed on the birth certificate. Once a man's name is on the birth certificate of child, he does not need to take any further action to establish paternity if he wishes to file a custody action. This will likely be the course of action that Jena and Ethan will take since they are involved in a happy and committed relationship.

Paternity can also be established if an unmarried father who is not on the child's birth certificate by filing a paternity action in the county court that has jurisdiction over the matter. This course of action generally involves taking a DNA test before the court will find that the man is the child's father. This situation is common where the parents are not together at the time of the child's birth.

If you are an unmarried parent, contact McMorrow Law, LLC at 724-940-0100 for a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your rights. 

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