Paternity establishment is a legal determination that a man is the father of a child. If the parents of a child were not married to each other at the time of the child's birth, paternity must be established before child support can be ordered. Paternity establishment creates the legal status of fatherhood. If the child's parents were married at the time of the child's conception, but divorced by the time of the child's birth, the child is the legal child of the marriage, and paternity is not at issue. Similarly, a child whose parents marry after the child's birth is a legal child of that marriage, and paternity is not at issue.
Paternity may be established by acknowledgment of the father or by a judicial determination. If paternity needs to be judicially established, a lawsuit will be filed, often by the state, against the named father. In Lancaster County, the State will file the suit on behalf of the child and on behalf of the State. The named father will be the defendant/respondent. He may have the right to court-appointed counsel, if indigent. He may also have the right to have genetic testing conducted to determine if he can be excluded as the father or to determine the statistical probability of fatherhood. The results of the test, including the statistical probability of paternity, shall be admissible evidence and shall be weighed along with other evidence of paternity.
The father of a child whose paternity is established either by judicial proceedings or by acknowledgment shall be liable for support to the same extent and in the same manner as the father of a child born to parents who are married to each other.