Parents who divorce are required to continue to financially support their children. Generally, whichever parent does not have custody of the children will pay child support to the parent who does - the custodial parent. However, Pennsylvania residents should be aware that child support is not limited to the context of divorce. In fact, even children born as a result of a sexual assault are entitled to be supported.
Under current law in Pennsylvania, a man who fathers a child through the act of rape is required to shoulder the financial responsibility for the child by making regular child support payments. However, if the biological father's parental rights are terminated - as almost certainly a mother in such a scenario would seek to do, rather than share parental rights - the law actually relieves the man of that responsibility.
A local lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation that would require convicted rapists who father a child to pay child support even when their parental rights are terminated. The bill aims to save rape victims the agony of choosing between child support and sharing parental rights. The bill has been drafted and is presently being circulated for co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.
If this proposal were to pass into law, establishing a child's paternity when the mother was a victim of sexual assault would take on even greater significance. It is important to understand, then, that in cases where a father contests paternity, a mother may seek a paternity action. This will require the putative father to appear in court and submit to a DNA test. Assuming DNA testing establishes the putative father's paternity of the child - and such tests are accurate 99 percent of the time - the court will rule on the father's paternity. The mother may then be entitled to receive child support.
Child support and paternity cases can present significant challenges. Pennsylvania parents struggling with these issues are advised to consult with a family law professional who can help evaluate a parent's rights and options.
Source: abc27, "Pa. lawmaker wants rapists to pay child support," Myles Snyder, Feb. 13, 2013