Establishing paternity can be as simple as the father executing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form. The acknowledgment indicates the father is waiving his rights to any genetic testing or trial on the issue of paternity. An acknowledgment acts as conclusive evidence that the person who signed the acknowledgment is in fact the father of any subject child(ren). Once an acknowledgment of paternity is signed, it is very difficult for a father to then try to allege the child is not his. 23 Pa. C.S. Section 5103(g) discusses grounds for rescission of an acknowledgment. It can be revoked within the first sixty (60) days of signature. After 60 days, it can only be rescinded by court order following a hearing. A hearing can be requested by filing a Petition with the court.
The party challenging paternity must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that there was fraud, duress or material mistake of fact when signing the acknowledgment. Even if a party believes they can prove one of the above, there is a second hurdle based on the concept of paternity by estoppel. Paternity by estoppel acts to impose an obligation on the party who holds themselves out as a father to the child and supports the child to continue to support the child even if there is no biological connection. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that the purpose of paternity by estoppel is to protect the best interest of the child by shielding them from claims of illegitimacy and, potentially, a broken family. The courts have refused to order genetic testing to revisit paternity if a party has been acting as a Father under this legal principle. You should never sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity if you have any doubts about the actual parentage of the child. Instead, you should file for genetic testing right away before assuming the role of parent, caring for the child, and building that relationship.