Changes to the Presumption of Paternity in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, when a child is born during an intact marriage, there is a presumption that the husband is the father of the child unless there is evidence that he didn't have access or was incapable of procreation. Where paternity is presumed, an outside party who is the biological father of the child does not have standing to claim custody rights of that child.

Recently the Pennsylvania Superior Court considered a case where an ex-husband challenged paternity of the child of his marriage after separation. The case, M.L. v. J.G.M., was decided by the Superior Court on January 4, 2016.

When M.L. and J.G.M. divorced in 2014, their child was 8 years-old. After the parties divorce, the Father administered an at-home paternity test which determined that the child was not his. Father subsequently petitioned the Berks County Court of Common Pleas to terminate support and to order DNA testing to verify his at-home findings. Mother filed in opposition of the test and her petition was denied. The Trial Court ordered the DNA test as the parties' marriage was no longer intact. The case came before the Superior Court on Mother's Appeal of this order.

The Superior Court remanded the case with instructions to the court to develop a record regarding the bond that existed between the child and the presumed Father, including psychological evaluations. Pursuant to Pennsylvania's laws regarding paternity, the Father in this case has every right to challenge paternity and potentially terminate his support obligation. Unfortunately, as with so many other cases, regardless of the outcome an innocent child will remain confused and hurt and potentially will have to attempt to understand why someone who was "Dad" for eight years, doesn't want to be anymore.

The issues revolving around presumption of paternity, paternity by estoppel, and fathers and presumptive fathers attempting to either challenge or establish paternity remains extremely complex. If you are a father or presumed father and have questions about your rights or standing, call our office today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.

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