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How difficult is it to establish paternity in Pennsylvania?

| Nov 30, 2020 | Paternity

In Pennsylvania, a married woman’s husband is the presumed legal father of any child born to her. If you and your child’s mother were not married at the time of your child’s birth, however, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare warns that you have no legal relationship to or with your child unless and until you proactively establish your paternity of him or her. 

You can do this in one of the following three ways: 

  • You and your child’s mother can sign a voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity at the time of your child’s birth. 
  • You can sign an AOP/Waiver of Trial form at your county’s Domestic Relations Section. 
  • You can go to court and petition the DRS judge to enter an order establishing you as your child’s legal father. 

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

If you and your child’s mother agree that you are your child’s father, signing a voluntary AOP at the time of your child’s birth or shortly thereafter represents the simplest way to establish your paternity. Keep in mind that both of you need to sign it. 

Going to court

If your child’s mother refuses to sign a voluntary AOP, you can claim paternity by signing the form yourself after filling out the parts pertaining to your child’s birth date and place of birth, the mother’s name and your own information. While doing this at your local court’s DRS will result in your notification of any legal proceedings concerning your child, it will not, in and of itself, establish your paternity or give you legal rights to him or her. 

If you want the court to decree your paternity, you should petition the DRS to conduct genetic testing of your child and you. These tests compare your DNA with that of your child after obtaining samples from both of you, usually by swabbing your and your child’s mouths. If the results show you as the father, the court will enter its order establishing your paternity.