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Child support affected by changing paternity standards?

It has been customary that in child support disputes, a biological parent is the one that is typically pursued to make payments. However, sometimes this role is filled by the “psychological” parent, deemed to be an individual that the child has known in a parental role longer than their biological parent. These issues were intertwined in a Pennsylvania woman’s recent child support case.

The child in question was fathered by someone other than the woman’s husband through an extramarital affair. The husband was aware of the affair and that the child was not his own, and the couple’s other two children were also aware that the child was their half-sibling. But when the woman sought child support from the child’s biological father after she and her husband became estranged, the case was dismissed on the grounds that the mother and “psychological parent” (the since-estranged husband) had held him out to be the child’s father.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has now overturned the dismissal and returned the case to the trial judge to make a determination based upon the best interests of the child. In its majority opinion, the high court stated that child support is an obligation of the biological parent.

A final determination in this Pennsylvania case has yet to be made, but it underscores the point that these sorts of child support disputes raise important legal questions. In fact, about two in five children are born out of wedlock, increasing the potential for these types of child support claims. Regardless of whether a parent is seeking child support from their child’s biological or “psychological” parent, they will likely benefit from understanding which party they should be entitled to seek support from when both types of parent figures are involved. Indeed, all those contemplating or involved in child support proceedings would do well to familiarize themselves with the relevant law and procedure in our state as they fight for an equitable resolution of an often complex situation.

Source: The York Daily Record, “Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling alters standards for deciding paternity,” Mark Scolforo, Feb 22, 2012

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