As a family law attorney, I occasionally encounter child custody cases in which paternity is a crucial issue. In Pennsylvania, paternity is defined as the state or quality of being a father. If a mother, potential father, or child wishes to have a paternity test conducted, he or she may petition the Court to have the test administered. Traditionally, a simple cotton swab test is conducted and DNA is taken from both father and child.
There are a number of reasons that parties seek to have paternity established including providing the child with an identity, establishing a father for support purposes, establishing a medical history for the child, or having the child covered under father's benefits. Therefore, the Court is traditionally receptive to permitting the parties to go through with a paternity test to determine a child's natural father.
However, the Court will not grant all petitions for paternity testing. If an individual has held himself out as the father of a child, provides support for him or her, and has fostered a relationship with the child, the Court will not permit the father to obtain a paternity test. The thought here is that the Court desires permanency for the child in the relationship with father. Therefore, the Court will not, say 4 years after the child is born and father has established a relationship with the child, conduct a paternity test and potentially leave the child without a father figure.
Time is of the essence if you are in a situation where paternity may be an issue. Usually, if a petition for paternity is filed within the first 6 months of a child's life, the Court will order the test. Otherwise, as time passes, the Court is less and less likely to permit the parties to conduct the test as it would not be in the best interests of the child. If you need to have a paternity test conducted, contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.