Understanding Paternity Laws in Pennsylvania: A Guide for Parents

Navigating the legal landscape of paternity can be challenging for parents in Pennsylvania. Whether you’re a mother seeking child support or a father wanting to establish a relationship with your child, understanding paternity laws is crucial. This blog aims to provide a comprehensive overview of paternity laws in Pennsylvania to help you make informed decisions.

What is Paternity?

Paternity refers to the legal acknowledgment of a man as the biological father of a child. Establishing paternity is essential for various reasons, including securing child support, obtaining health insurance, and gaining legal rights to custody or visitation.

Establishing Paternity in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, paternity can be established in several ways:

1. Voluntary Acknowledgment. Both parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital immediately after the child’s birth or later at a county assistance office or the Division of Vital Records. This form is a legal declaration of the father’s paternity and has the same effect as a court order once filed with the Department of Public Welfare.

2. Genetic Testing. If there’s a dispute about paternity, either parent can request genetic testing through the court or the county domestic relations section. The court will order DNA testing, and if the results indicate a 99% or higher probability of paternity, the man is presumed to be the father.

3. Marriage. If the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth or if the child is born within 300 days of the end of the marriage, the husband is presumed to be the father. This presumption can be challenged in court with evidence such as genetic testing.

4. Court Order. If voluntary acknowledgment or genetic testing is not feasible, either parent can file a paternity action in court. The court will then determine paternity based on evidence presented, which may include genetic testing results.

Legal Implications of Establishing Paternity

Establishing paternity has several legal implications:

1. Child Support. Once paternity is established, the father is legally obligated to provide financial support for the child. This includes regular child support payments and may also cover expenses such as healthcare and education.

2. Custody and Visitation. Establishing paternity gives the father the right to seek custody or visitation rights. However, these rights are determined based on the best interests of the child and may require a separate legal process.

3. Inheritance and Benefits. A child has the right to inherit from their biological father and may be eligible for benefits such as Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and health insurance through the father.


Understanding and establishing paternity is a critical step for parents in securing the rights and benefits for their children in Pennsylvania. Whether you’re a mother seeking support or a father wanting to be involved in your child’s life, it’s essential to navigate the legal process with the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney. If you have questions or need assistance with paternity matters, consider reaching out to a reputable family law firm in Pennsylvania to ensure your rights and your child’s best interests are protected.

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