One of the most commonly seen disputes in the court of Family Law concerns paternity. Some potential fathers may struggle and attempt to avoid paternity, while other potential fathers seek to establish custody by proving their paternity. In most cases, the goal of establishing paternity is to determine court orders for support or custody. Since children have a right to parenthood, and many times a right to support as well, many times absent fathers are sought out through the court.
Establishing Paternity Through A Genetic Test
At times, families may need to seek out the establishment of paternity through the court. In these cases, sometimes parents may need to file a complaint for paternity in the court. The actual filing is done differently depending on the county that the parent resides in. Many of the Pennsylvania county courthouses provide access to methods of genetic testing for families undergoing a paternity complaint. These tests can take a few weeks, however, they can provide actual, physical evidence to show paternity in a case. A majority of the time, the tests use a non-invasive cheek swab method. Once biological paternity is established, then future custody and support proceedings will be able to move forward.
Establishing "Legal" Paternity
Legal paternity is slightly different than obtaining a result from a genetic test. Legal paternity refers to the legal obligation of fatherhood to a child. A father does not have to be biologically related to a child in order to receive legal paternity. Legal paternity can be established in a number of ways. The most obvious way to establish legal paternity is to undergo the adoption of a child. However, this is just one of a few ways that are possible. Paternity can be established without adoption voluntarily or involuntarily up until the 18th birthday of the child.
If both mother and father agree that the father is the natural father of the child, a "Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity" may be signed. This document legitimizes the father as the legally responsible father of the child. If a man wants to claim fatherhood over a child, he can fill out the form himself, but the mother must also agree. If the mother refuses, the potential father may still receive some updates about the status of the child.
Involuntary paternity is established through the court issuing an "order of paternity." At this point, the potential father may either dispute or accept the claim. Moving forward from this stage requires either the mother or father to file a "petition to determine paternity" in order to begin the court's process. The court may mandate a genetic test. Involuntarily establishing paternity often goes hand in hand with attempting to put forward a support order as well, as paternity measures often seek to hold the father responsible for the child through legal action.
Paternity In A Custody Battle
Paternity can play an important role in a custody battle. Once biological paternity is established the father then has immediate rights to file for custody of the child, provided that there are not any circumstances that would normally prevent this, such as certain criminal convictions. For cases where a father is being denied custody on the premise that he is not the father, it may be helpful to seek out a paternity test through the court.
Paternity In A Support Case
When it comes to determining child support, paternity plays an incredibly important role. If an alleged father is absent and refuses to provide support for a child on the basis that he is not the father, a paternity test mandated by the court may be necessary. Once paternity is proven or established, proceedings to request spousal or child support from the father can begin. An established father to a child can be put through court proceedings to negotiate support.
Paternity can become a complex issue in the court of Family Law. Many times an absent father will make every attempt to remain absent. In these cases, petitioning the court will be necessary for getting the support you may need for your children. If you or a loved one is currently engaged in matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.