Dear Ask the Lawyer:
My wife and I have been married for eight years, and recently my wife gave birth to our daughter. While filling out the birth certificate form, we accidentally left the paternity section blank.
When we received the birth certificate and realized our oversight, we immediately returned the birth certificate with a request to correct the paternity section.
The Department of Vital Records refused to correct the paternity section even after we submitted our marriage certificate. They told us to get a court order to establish paternity before they would add my name to the birth certificate, and there is no other way.
As I understand it, according to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the presumption of paternity invoked at the very moment of birth and no further proceedings are required to establish the paternity of the child.
My questions are:
1 — Is it true that getting a court order to establish paternity is the only way in my case?
2 — Is there a law that trumps the presumption of paternity by the simple fact we left the paternity section blank?
I enjoy reading your articles very much, and they have inspired me to write to you hoping your knowledge of the laws would help us to resolve our predicament.
Thank you very much for your help.
Your question is one of the most interesting questions I have received in years.
What you are referring to is the “presumption” of paternity. A child born during the marriage is presumed to be the child of the marriage. This is not an ironclad rule. If the parties can prove that there was no access between husband and wife, or that the husband was incapable of having sexual relations, then the presumption may be overcome.
What this means in plain English is that it’s assumed that a child born during the marriage is a child of the married couple but under certain circumstances the presumption doesn’t apply.
Your problem is more administrative than legal. Contact your state senator or state representative. See if they can intervene on your behalf.
If nothing can be done to move an immovable state bureaucracy, then engage an attorney who can obtain a court order. This is a ridiculous rigmarole and a waste of money, but it may be the only thing that the Department of Vital Records will accept to amend the birth certificate. ••
Stewart J. Berger is an attorney with offices at 7207 Rising Sun Ave. Questions and comments may be addressed to Ask The Lawyer, c/o The Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053