Monday, December 12, 2005

Paternity Testing: Not an Absolute Right

Does the court always order a paternity test when the identity of the father is in doubt? Sometimes, the court may rule that it is in the child’s best interest to refuse to allow paternity testing.

Generally, if mother and the alleged father are unmarried, the court requires an acknowledgment of paternity by the father or a paternity test. The tests are generally non-invasive. The mother, alleged father and child report for testing. The parties provide identification, sign forms and are photographed and fingerprinted. The parties do not have to appear for testing on the same day. A swab is placed in each person’s mouth and that sample is used for the DNA test. There are no needles or other invasive procedures and the test is pain free. In Philadelphia County, a unit is set up in the basement of the courthouse at 34 South 11th Street to perform the tests.

Even though they are readily available, courts do not automatically order paternity tests. As with all matters surrounding children, the courts first look to the child’s best interests. In a recent opinion, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the trial court’s order for paternity testing. In Buccieri v. Campagna, an alleged father requested a paternity test and while the trial court agreed with the father, the Superior Court reversed that order and found that the test was not in the child’s best interests.

The parties were never married. The parties had a brief relationship which ended when Mother found out she was pregnant. The parties had no further contact. The child was born in 1996. Mother never notified the alleged father or asked him for child support. The parties did not meet again until sometime in the year 2000 or 2001 when they met by chance in a park. This was the first time that the alleged father saw the child. However, he took no action to become involved in the child’s life until 2004, when he filed a Petition for Partial Custody and a Petition for Paternity Testing. By this time, the child was eight years old.

Mother was involved with a man that she intended to marry. That man had filed a Petition to Terminate the rights of the alleged father so that he could adopt the child.

The court noted that the alleged father had done nothing in the intervening eight years of the child’s life to become involved. Although Mother clearly did not encourage his involvement, she was also not obstructive and he generally knew how to get in touch with her if he so chose. He did not ask to see the child, make any effort at communication or offer any type of support. Mother had by now formed a new family unit and her new husband had been acting as the girl’s father for approximately eight years. The court noted the importance of constancy in the child’s life and the stable family that Mother had developed. Based on the alleged father’s inaction over all of that time, the court refused to allow the paternity test.

Opinions of the Pennsylvania Superior Court can be found at www.aopc.org.

Please note that these articles are intended for information only and cannot substitute for specific legal advice, tailored to your individual situation.

1 comment:

NeedHelp75 said...

Hi. I'm trying to do some reasearch about getting a paternity test because my ex-girlfriend, who just had a baby, is telling me that the child is mine. I honestly don't know if the child is or not, but I want to get a test done to see for sure. Do you have a company that you recommend based on your experience?

A friend of mine did some research for me and told me to use this company

http://www.identigene.com

because they give you the test for free if it's not done in 3 days. I'm just now learning about how dna testing works - so can you tell me if this is a good company to go with? I called them today and they sound good, but i don't know enough about it to know for sure.

Thanks.