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Reasons for establishing paternity and how to proceed

When parents aren't married, the paternity of a father has to be questioned. The alleged father won't be a legal father unless both parents agree to sign an acknowledgement stating that the man has paternity rights or if a Domestic Relations court agrees that the man is the biological or legal father of the child.

When you're not yet the father of a child but are waiting for paternity to be determined, you'll be called a putative father. What can you do to make sure you become a legal father to your child? Your attorney can help you acknowledge your paternity through a voluntary acknowledgement, which can be signed at your child's birth, or you can file an acknowledgement with the Department of Human Services after you leave the hospital with your son or daughter.

A court order can be issued to determine paternity, particularly in difficult cases. If the mother wants to have child support ordered or to determine the father's right to see the child, then she can ask for a paternity test. Likewise, if you, as a father, want to establish your legal right to custody, visitation or to make decisions about your child's life, you can ask for a paternity test as well.

It may not be helpful to get your own DNA test done outside court. Why? The court may not admit it as evidence, even if it establishes that you are, or aren't, the father of a child. Instead, the court will have to order another test, and that test will have to be supervised by the court to be legal.

Source: Philadelphia Bar Association, "Paternity of Children in Philadelphia County When Parents Are Not Married," accessed Oct. 20, 2015

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