Disestablishing Paternity

It is difficult to avoid the obligations that come with parenting a child. Paternity can be established in a number of ways including by acknowledgment, by genetic testing, or by estoppel. Once an acknowledgment of paternity is signed, it is very difficult for a father to then try to allege the child is not his. An acknowledgment acts as conclusive evidence that the person who signed the acknowledgment is in fact the father of any subject child(ren). A court order on paternity will follow if the genetic test results indicate 99% probability of paternity. Paternity by estoppel recognizes a man as the father based on his role in the child’s life rather than the biological connection.

A presumption of paternity arises where a child is born into an intact marriage. In that circumstance, absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, the husband will be deemed to be the father. However, in K.E.M. v. P.C.S., 38 A.3d 798 (Pa. 2012), Husband, though he had supported the child, acted as a father figure and was married to Wife at the time of birth, submitted to a paternity test which ruled him out as the father. Accordingly, the presumption of paternity was defeated. The establishment of paternity imposes the policies of the Uniform Parentage Act including strict liability for child support. In Wallis v. Smith, 22 P.3d 682 (2001), Father tried to avoid his support obligation on the basis that Mother had committed contraceptive fraud. In other words, the parties had an agreement that Mother would be responsible for birth control and subsequently stopped taking the birth control without alerting Father. The courts refused to relieve Father of his support obligation despite the parties’ alleged agreement. No state recognizes contraceptive fraud or failure to accurately practice birth control as a defense to child support.

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