In Pennsylvania, legal paternity factors into many child custody and child support issues. While establishing your legal status as the father of your children is automatic if you are married to your child’s mother, other circumstances make it more complicated. 

Establishing paternity offers numerous benefits to both you and your children. Once you have legal fatherhood status, it may be easier for you to provide for your children by including them in your health insurance, social security and military benefits. 

Establishing paternity within marriage 

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare provides information on establishing paternity within the state. If you and your child’s mother are married when your child is born, Pennsylvania law considers you to be the legal father of your children. Your name may go on the birth certificate, and it may be easier to establish custody or visitation rights in the event that your marriage ends. It is possible for a court to overrule this presumption of paternity within marriage if genetic testing indicates that another man fathered your children. 

Establishing paternity outside of marriage 

If you are not married to your child’s mother when your child is born, there is no presumption of paternity, even if you are in an established relationship with the mother. To legally establish paternity, you must complete certain legal forms or go through a process in court to establish yourself as your children’s legal father. 

If you and the mother both agree that you are your child’s father, you may both sign and submit an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. Once signed, this form is a legal document that requires no further approval by a court. If your child’s mother refuses to sign an AOP form, you may contact your county’s Domestic Relations Section to request genetic testing.