Chester County Paternity Attorneys
Diligent Legal Representation in Pennsylvania Paternity Cases
Becoming a father is a wonderful if intimidating prospect for many men, but it is not always clear-cut. Some children are born under confusing circumstances where the identity of the father is not immediately established by the law, especially if the parents were not married. This can make it difficult for mothers to receive child support payments to help raise their children, and it can lead to the wrong father having to fulfill a role he is not responsible for.
If you need assistance establishing or contesting paternity, the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., can provide the legal guidance you need. Our Chester County paternity lawyer has more than 25 years of experience representing clients in a wide range of family law matters, including paternity suits, and can explain your options under the law. Call our office toll-free at (866) 290-9292 to schedule a free case evaluation.
When Is Paternity Up for Debate?
Generally, when a married couple has a child, the State of Pennsylvania will automatically assign paternity to the husband if he signs the child’s birth certificate. In contrast, when a child is born to an unmarried mother, paternity can be up for debate. While the mother may know who the father is, this will need to be clearly established in court so that the father can fulfill his paternal role and take part in the child’s life.
But even for married couples, the matter could be contested. For example, if the child was born due to infidelity, during an open relationship, or while the couple was on a break, then the father may have reason to contest his paternal role.
Typically, a person will go to court to establish paternity in the following scenarios:
- Mothers who are looking to legally establish paternity under Pennsylvania law
- Fathers who wish to establish a relationship with their children but cannot due to not legally being considered the child’s parent
- Fathers looking to contest paternity because they do not believe they are the child’s father
Each outcome will have a major impact on the father’s legal responsibilities and should be pursued with a delicate hand. If you are in any of these scenarios, then you should speak to the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., as soon as possible.
How Can Paternity Impact Child Custody and Support?
When paternity is in flux, it can be difficult to determine who is required to pay child support and whether or not that person has the right to visitation or custody. A single mother may have difficulties paying for her child’s care because a presumed father is refusing to pay his share. In turn, a presumed father may not be able to see his child because of a poor relationship with the mother and a lack of court-ordered visitation. Paternity may also be needed to establish certain other services, such as health insurance, inheritance, and military benefits. No matter the relationship between the parents, each of them can go before a Chester County family law court to request a resolution to the situation.
What Is a Paternity Suit?
Paternity can be established in four ways in Pennsylvania if the parents are not married:
- Marriage: If a child is born out of wedlock, then the parents can still establish paternity afterward by getting married.
- Assumed Parenthood: If the father willingly accepts paternity and the mother agrees to it, then the father can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form with the Department of Public Welfare. This form will need to be signed by both the parents and two witnesses. In addition, you should have the document reviewed by a skilled attorney to ensure it will hold up in court in case there is a dispute. These forms do not require court approval but, under Pennsylvania Statutes Title 23 Pa.C.S.A. Domestic Relations § 5103, the “father shall have all the rights and duties as to the child which he would have had if he had been married to the mother at the time of the birth of the child.” Once it is signed and agreed upon, the parents can freely agree to a custody plan and child support. However, even if the mother does not sign the form, the Department of Public Welfare can file the father’s copy as a claim to paternity, which can support his case in court.
- DNA Testing: If there is a dispute about paternity, such as a man arguing that he is not the father, then either mother or father can file a paternity suit to have a genetic test performed. A lab test may be able to determine who fathered the child. However, if either party refuses the test, it may need to be court-ordered. Courts will only request a DNA test if it is in the best interest of the child. For example, if the child has spent most of her life assuming a man was her father, then the court may not approve a DNA test if it could confuse the child. In addition, these tests are not 100% accurate and can be disputed in court.
- Jury Trial: If testing is disputed, a Chester County family law judge may order a jury trial to review the matter. Both sides will need to argue their case, present evidence, and bring forth witnesses for the journey to review. At the end of the trial, the jury will determine paternity.
Why You Should Work With an Experienced Attorney
Paternity cases can be heart-wrenching and confusing for parents. Establishing custody is not a clear-cut road, and sometimes, there are many legal hurdles fathers have to go through in order to see their children. Mothers also may face hardships in trying to take care of their children on their own and cannot receive support without a court order. In any case, it is important to discuss all your options with a lawyer.
At the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., our Chester County family law attorney can use her more than 25 years of experience to represent your best interests in front of a court. We have helped numerous clients establish paternity, receive child support, and see their children. With our legal representation, you can trust that your paternity case will be handled with diligence and professionalism. To schedule a free consultation with the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., call our office toll-free at (866) 290-9292.