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Pennsylvania Family Law: Paternity by Estoppel

By Sheryl Rentz on April 18, 2012

In a recent ruling in a family law case, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania deemed that paternity in Pennsylvania by estoppel will continue in the state. Paternity by estoppel acts to impose an obligation on the party who holds himself out as the father of a child and continues to provide support for the child as well. The mother in this particular case acknowledged that she had an extramarital affair with the alleged father during the course of her marriage to her husband. Testing did establish that her husband was not the biological father of the child.

The alleged father asserted paternity by estoppel to defeat the child support claim and argued that the husband had established the father relationship with the child, adding that his involvement in the child’s life had been insignificant. Also, the mother and her husband remained married even though they were separated.

The alleged father’s argument previously prompted the lower court and Superior Court to grant his motion to dismiss the support action against him, and continue to hold the husband responsible for the child’s support. However, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reversed the decision and remanded back to the lower court for proceedings. The Court explained that the purpose of paternity by estoppel is to keep families intact and protect the best interests of the child. The Court needed to be convinced that it was in the best interest of the child to continue to recognize the husband as the father of the child, and it was determined that no such evidence was presented at the hearing.

In summation, paternity by estoppel is still a viable principle in Pennsylvania, but it must be supported by an analysis of what is in the child’s best interests to succeed.

Child support matters can be complicated, and without proper legal representation, a former spouse may not get the money he or she needs to support family members. If you are involved in a child support case in Pennsylvania, Montgomery County child support lawyer Sheryl R. Rentz has the knowledge and experience necessary to obtain the compensation you need to provide the best life you can for your family. For assistance with your case, please call (866) 290-9292.

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