WHAT IS PATERNITY?
PATERNITY: The state of being a father; fatherhood. In Pennsylvania, when a child is born to a woman who is unmarried, there is no legal relationship between the father and the child. The father of a child born to an unmarried woman is not the father for legal purposes unless: 1. Both parents have signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, or 2. A Domestic Relations Section (DRS) or a Court has entered an order that establishes the legal father of the child. NOTE: Under current Pennsylvania law, when a child is born to a married woman, the husband is the presumed legal father of the child.
WHAT IS AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PATERNITY FORM AND WHEN CAN IT BE SIGNED?
If the mother is unmarried, she and the father may sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. This form establishes the birth father as the child's father for legal purposes. At the time of birth, the hospital staff will give the unmarried mother and birth father an Acknowledgment of Paternity form to complete. If both parties wish to file an Acknowledgment of Paternity after having left the hospital, the form can be obtained at County Assistance Offices (CAOs), Domestic Relations Section (DRS) offices, or by contacting the Department of Public Welfare, Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, Paternity Coordinator, at 1-800-932-0211, option number 4. Someone at all of these places can help you complete the form. An Acknowledgment of Paternity form must include the signed consent of the birth mother and signature of the birth father. The signatures must be witnessed by someone other than the birth mother or birth father. Then, the form is recorded as an acknowledgment of paternity
WHAT IF THE BIRTH MOTHER WILL NOT SIGN THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PATERNITY FORM?
A man claiming to be the father of a child may pursue a claim of paternity. The man needs to complete the father and child's sections of the Acknowledgment of Paternity form. This allows the man to be notified of certain legal proceedings about the child, but does not give him any parental rights. If the man wants parental rights, he may go to the county Domestic Relations Section office and request genetic testing. Of course, in taking this step the father is seeking to obtain both parental rights and parental (financial support) obligations.
DO NOT SIGN THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PATERNITY FORM IF EITHER PARTY IS UNSURE OF WHO IS THE FATHER!
Paternity decisions have a truly unmeasurable effect on a number of lives. You should seek legal counsel in order to be certain the choices and decisions you make are sound, and are in your and the child's best interest. You may contact or go to your county DRS office to have paternity established through the court. The court may order genetic testing.