This article will discuss the matter of a father filing a complaint to establish paternity in Pennsylvania.
The issue of paternity often arises in the context of a child support case. In these situations, it is often the Mother who is the Plaintiff and is seeking to establish that the Defendant is the Father of the child and is therefore responsible for supporting the child. This situation arises with some regularity and is handled straightforwardly through the support process.
A situation that occurs less often is when a possible Father brings suit as the Plaintiff against the Mother of a child (now as the Defendant), in order to establish that he is the Father.
This type of case typically arises when a man believes that there is a high likelihood that he is the Father of a child but for whatever reason the Mother of the child denies him as the Father and will not willingly consent to having a paternity test conducted.
At this point, the only option the Father has is to file a complaint for paternity. When this is done, the court will assign a judge to the matter and also will schedule a conciliation or hearing. The complaint then has to be served upon the Mother of the child, and there is an attached scheduling order directing the parties to appear at the hearing.
At the hearing, the judge will decide if it is a situation where genetic testing should be ordered. This is not an automatic right, and it is up to the judge to decide whether there is a potential for the Plaintiff to be the Father.
The judge will also then make a determination as to whether the Father has held himself out as the father of the child or taken any other steps (such as signing the birth certificate) that would establish paternity.
If paternity has been established in any way, then the judge must go on the record to dis-establish paternity prior to ordering the testing. The Plaintiff/Father is responsible for the costs of the genetic testing.
If the judge does order the testing, the genetic tests will be scheduled for the potential Father, the Mother, and the child. There will also be another conference scheduled where both parties will finally learn the outcome of the test results.
At this point, the parties can enter into an agreement dismissing the complaint (if Plaintiff is not the Father), or finding that Plaintiff is the Father. Almost always this is the end of the matter. However, the Mother could still choose to try to litigate the matter further.
If Mother will not consent despite the DNA evidence, then the matter may be listed for a judicial conciliation or set for trial, although it is difficult to imagine a factual scenario that could overcome the genetic test results.
If you are involved in a paternity suit you should consider contacting Cordell & Cordell’s Pennsylvania family law attorneys for additional information and possible legal representation.