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Paternity by Estoppel

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, even in the absence of a biological connection, paternity may be established. 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. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that the purpose of paternity by estoppel is to keep families intact and protect the best interest of the child by shielding them from claims of illegitimacy and, potentially, a broken family.

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In the case of K.E.M. v. P.C.S., 38 A.3d 798 (Pa 2012), Appellant, mother of G.L.M., brought an action for support against Appellee, the alleged father of G.L.M. Appellant was married to H.M.M. at the time G.L.M. was born. Further, H.M.M. had supported the child and acted as a father figure to G.L.M. for most of the child's life. Appellee filed a motion to dismiss the support action on the basis of a presumption of paternity on the part of H.M.M. and paternity by estoppel. Appellee's argument that H.M.M. had acted as G.L.M.'s father prompted the lower court and Superior Court to grant his motion to dismiss the support action against him and continue to hold H.M.M. responsible for G.L.M.'s support. In this case, H.M.M. submitted to a paternity test which ruled him out as the father, however, on appeal the court found it was in the child's best interests to still recognize Apellant's husband, H.M.M., as the father.

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