Paternity is usually established in one of two ways: 1) Administratively—this is done voluntarily by the parties, with no Court involvement. The parties both sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form, which is given to them by personnel at the birthing place when the child is born. You can also obtain a form from the Department of Public Welfare or Allegheny County Family Division. The form is then sent by the parties to the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE), Paternity Coordinator, P.O. Box 8018, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8018. 2) Judicially—this is done as part of a Court process when the mother, caretaker, guardian, or the state will file a Complaint for Support and the case is scheduled for a support conference/hearing. At the conference, the parties may sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity or the alleged father may request genetic testing to determine if the child is his biological child.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. As long as paternity is not yet established for the child, someone who believes he may be the father of a child may initiate an action by filing a Complaint to Establish Paternity and Request for Genetic Testing with the Court. If you are unsure if paternity has been established, you should check with the Court.
Because of the legal presumption that a child born to a married woman is a child of the marriage, a married female must file a support action against her husband, even if separated at the time of filing. Alternatively, the woman may obtain an order through motions Court prior to filing allowing her to file against someone other than her husband in certain limited situations provided that the husband is provided notice of the motion. The motion must request that the marital presumption be set aside.
Yes. The mother, guardian, or caretaker will need to file a Complaint for Support, and a packet will be forwarded to the alleged father at the jail. The alleged father can voluntarily acknowledge paternity by signing the Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) and returning the document to the Court. The document will then be filed establishing legal paternity. If the alleged father refuses to sign the AOP and wants to request genetic testing, he will need to sign the stipulation and return it to the Court so testing arrangements can be made for all parties.
To legally establish paternity, DNA testing can only occur at a Court approved site pursuant to a Court order. The mother, alleged father, and the child(ren) are tested by taking sample cells from inside the cheek of each person to be tested, a painless procedure. These samples are then sent to a lab where they are evaluated for genetic markers, which are compared to determine if the alleged father is the biological father. Both parties will be advised of the testing results at a scheduled conference before Court personnel.
- If paternity is established administratively, where both parties signed the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) and returned the completed form to the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE), the parties will need to contact the BCSE, Paternity Coordinator, P.O. Box 8018, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8018, or by phone at 1.800.932.0211. Mother may also contact the Bureau of Vital Records (BVR), P.O. Box 1528, New Castle, PA 16103-1528, or by phone at 1.800.724.3258, with questions concerning the child’s birth certificate. The BVR does not accept requests from the child’s father.
- If paternity has been established judicially, the mother will need to obtain a certified copy of the order establishing paternity from the Department of Court Records (DCR), 1st Floor, City-County Building, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. The mother must then forward the certified copy, along with a written request to have the father’s name added to the child’s birth certificate, to the Bureau of Vital Records (BVR), P.O. Box 1528, New Castle, PA 16103-1528 or by phone 412.565.5113. The BVR does not accept requests from the child’s father.
If the Coroner’s Office was involved in the autopsy of a deceased alleged father, and sample genetic matter was kept by the Coroner’s Office, Family Division may be able to establish paternity. The party wishing to establish paternity should contact the County Solicitor’s Office/Child Support Unit for assistance in obtaining a Court order for a sample of the genetic material and to require the surviving parent to appear for the genetic testing. Alternatively, if an autopsy was not performed, a “family study” may be done with a sibling and/or parent of the deceased alleged father, as a way to establish paternity.