Paternity means ‘legal fatherhood’ of a child. Paternity establishment refers to the process of determining the biological (and legal) father of a child. A child has no legal father when he or she is born to unmarried parents. In order for the biological father to be the legal father, the parents must establish paternity.
In New York, paternity can be established in the following ways:
by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, or
by petitioning Family Court to determine paternity.
Paternity assigns certain rights and responsibilities to the father. The father must support the child financially until the child reaches age 21 or an age of emancipation. The father would also have a right to make important decisions for the child alongside the mother, unless the courts rule otherwise. The Father would also have a right to visitation or parenting time with the child and could be granted legal and/or physical custody (depending on the circumstances).
Once Paternity is established, either parent can petition the Court regarding child support, and custody/visitation.
What if there Is uncertainty surrounding who is the biological father?
If there is any doubt of who is the child’s biological father, an Acknowledgment of Paternity form must not be signed. The best course of action is to petition family court to determine paternity. The court would then order the mother, child and suspected father to undergo and submit DNA tests. The results will allow the court to determine whether the alleged father is in fact the legal father of the child.
If the DNA tests support the allegation, the court will issue an Order of Filiation, which declares that the man is the father of the child. Once the Order is made, either parent can seek a child support order. The father then has an obligation to support the child and his rights are in place surrounding custody or visitation.
Who can file a Paternity Petition?
New York allows Petitions for Paternity to be initiated by:
Person alleging to be the father;
Child's guardian, next of kin, or another person in a parental relationship;
Representative of a charitable or philanthropic society; or
Representative of a public welfare agency.
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