Bethlehem Paternity Lawyers

Serious legal and economic rights and duties often hinge upon a determination as to the paternity of a child.  An adjudication of paternity may obligate a man to pay child support to the mother of his child and may entitle him to custody rights to the child.  At Littner, Deschler & Littner, our attorneys are experienced in handling custody and support matters for both mothers and putative fathers where paternity is disputed.

Under Pennsylvania law, a man will be held to be the father of a child, if, during the lifetime of the child, the man openly holds out the child to be his and either receives the child into his home or provides support for the child.  Likewise, where a child is born to an unmarried woman, if the mother and the putative father sign what is known as an “acknowledgment of paternity,” the man will be deemed to be the father of the child.  The acknowledgment of paternity form will generally be offered to the unmarried parents of a child by hospital staff following the birth of the child.  Even where the man is not actually the biological father of a child, if he holds out the child as his or signs an acknowledgment of paternity, he can, as a result, incur significant obligations to the child and the child can obtain significant rights to him.  It is, therefore, very important that a putative father consult an experienced paternity lawyer so that he may know his rights with respect to this complex area of the law.

For centuries in paternity law, there existed a near-unassailable presumption that a child born to a married woman was also the child of the woman’s husband, regardless of whether the husband was actually the biological father.  Those days are long gone, and today courts will generally only apply this “presumption of paternity” if the child was born in wedlock and the couple’s marriage remains intact.

Likewise, in years past, where a man or woman held the man out to be the father of the woman’s child, neither of them could later deny the man’s paternity of the child.  This doctrine is known as “paternity by estoppel.”  Today, while the doctrine of paternity by estoppel remains viable, it will only be applied to prevent a person from denying paternity if its application is in the child’s best interest.

Consequently, the law today is more interested in determining the identity of the actual father of the child.  Courts are more willing to authorize the use of genetic testing to determine the paternity of a child.  Whether you are a mother or a putative father, whether you are seeking to establish or seeking to deny paternity, a paternity determination can change your life and the life of your child.  It is crucial to consult with an experienced paternity attorney to ensure that your rights and the rights of your child are protected.