Each family in Pennsylvania is unique and how the children are raised is based on the different dynamics of each family. Some parents may be married and raise the children together. In other families the parents may be divorced or never married at all and raise the children in a co-parenting relationship with the children going between the parents’ homes. When parents are no longer together, parents may need a child custody and parenting time order in place stating when each parent has the children and who will have custody.
While any parent has a right to request custody and parenting time, fathers who were not married at the time that their child was conceived must go through an extra step before they can request them. Unwed fathers must first establish paternity before they can request custody. There is a presumption that married fathers are the biological fathers of their children, but this is not true for unwed fathers and they must prove that they are in fact the biological father.
Ways fathers can establish paternity
There are different ways that fathers can establish paternity. One way they can establish paternity is by holding the child out as their own and bringing them into their home or providing support for the child. This method takes time though and there are methods which can establish paternity immediately.
If there is no dispute about whether the man is the father of the child, the parents can each sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity. This is a legal document that both parents sign stating that the man is the father of the child. Once it is signed paternity is presumed just as if the parents were married.
If there is a dispute about whether the man is the father, the parents may need to submit to genetic testing to determine paternity. The court can order the parties to do this if either parent is not voluntarily consenting to the testing. If the results indicate the man is the father, paternity is established.
Establishing paternity is just the first step in the process of obtaining custody and parenting time for unwed fathers in Pennsylvania. Once paternity is established the father can petition the court to obtain custody and parenting time. These cases are very fact-specific matters based on what is in the best interests of the children though. Experienced attorneys understand these complicated matters and could guide one through the process.