Under Pennsylvania law, both biological parents have a legal duty to financially support their child. This is true regardless of whether the parents are currently living together or whether they are currently married or were ever married at all.
A parent seeking court-ordered child support from a father, however, will need to show that the father is indeed the parent of the child through a legal process called establishing paternity, which is accomplished through the Pennsylvania state court system. Because child support obligations generally last until the child reaches the age of adulthood, this can be a hugely significant financial issue for both parties in a paternity matter.
When the Parents Were or Are Married
If the parents of the child were married at the time the child the born, there will be a presumption that the husband is indeed the father of the child. This presumption in legal terms means that a court can determine that the husband was the father without the mother providing any further proof, although the man may offer evidence which rebuts that presumption.
Pennsylvania, however, is somewhat strict in limiting the types of evidence that a man may put forward in rebutting this presumption. Two options for rebutting the presumption are: 1) showing that the man was incapable of fathering a child (e.g. he had undergone a vasectomy); or 2) showing that the man did not have access to the mother during the period of conception (e.g. the man was overseas away from the wife for the entire period in which the conception could have occurred). Blood tests, while often admissible in other tastes, will only be brought in as evidence to rebut this presumption in limited situations in Pennsylvania.
When the Parents Were Unwed
If the parents were not wed at the time of conception, then there will not be a presumption that the man fathered the child, and the mother will need to present evidence to the court that points toward him being the father.
One of the most common ways in which this is done is through a genetic test of both the child and the alleged father. If a man will not voluntarily submit to such a genetic test, the court can order that the man submits to a genetic test if there is a sworn statement submitted to the court by any party. If the test indicates there is a 99% or greater probability that the man is the father, then a presumption will be created that he is the father. It is not necessary to reach that level of probability however to establish paternity, and a test showing a lesser probability may still persuade the court that it is more likely than not the case that he is the father, such that child support can be ordered.
In addition, a mother may submit evidence to the court showing that the man had voluntarily contributed to financially support the child, or other physical evidence indicating a father-child relationship, such as physical resemblance.
Get Help With Your PA Family Law Matter Today
At The Martin Law Firm, P.C., our family law team works with men and women across Southeastern Pennsylvania in family law matters – including property distribution, alimony, child custody, and visitation – and we are committed to serving your needs in a compassionate and efficient manner. Call us today for a no-hassle consultation regarding any questions you have about divorce in Pennsylvania.