Paternity in New York

Learn how you can establish paternity and why it's beneficial for your child in New York.

This article provides an overview of Paternity in New York. If you have questions about paternity after reading this article, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.

What is Paternity?

Paternity is defined as the legal status of being a father. Legal status gives the father rights and responsibilities to the child, including the right to legal custody and potentially, physical custody and visitation as well.

Under New York law, there is a presumption that if two individuals are married at the time of their child’s birth, the husband is the legal father of the child.

If two individuals are not married at the time of the child’s birth, the father does not have legal rights and duties to the child and therefore, paternity must be established. Even if parents live together or plan to marry at some future date, paternity should be established in order for the child and both parents to secure certain rights.

How do you Establish Paternity?

There are two ways to establish paternity in New York when parents are not married at the time of the child’s birth.

Acknowledgment of Paternity

If both parents agree as to the identify of the child's father, they can sign a “ Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form, which states that the man signing the form is the child's legal father. In order to be valid, the form must be signed by both parents and must be witnessed by two people who are not related to either parent.

The Acknowledgment of Paternity is usually filled out at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth, but can also be completed at a later time, after the child’s birth.

If there is any doubt about the identity of the biological father of the child, parents should not sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity form.

Filing a Paternity Petition in Family Court

If the parents cannot agree to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form, either one can file a petition (written request) for a paternity hearing in family court. The court will order genetic testing on the mother, child and alleged father. If the tests prove the father to be the biological father of the child, the judge will issue an “Order of Filiation,” which is a court order that declares the alleged father is the legal father of the child. Once this order is issued, the legal father's name can be added to the child's birth certificate.

Who can File a Paternity Petition?

Proceedings to establish paternity of the child can be brought by either the mother, a person alleging to be the father of the child, the child, the child’s guardian, or the Department of Social Services - if the mother is receiving public assistance.

When can a Paternity Petition be Filed?

In New York, a proceeding to establish paternity can be brought during the mother’s pregnancy or up until the child reaches the age of 21.

In some circumstances, a paternity action can be brought after the child’s twenty-first birthday if paternity has been acknowledged by the father. For example, if the father previously admitted in writing to being the father or paid the mother child support.

What are the Benefits for Establishing Paternity?

The primary purpose for establishing paternity is to advance the best interests of the child and provide the child with the same rights and benefits as a child born to married parents. Paternity establishment is also a way to determine the identity of the child’s biological father.

Benefits for the Mother:

When paternity is established, the mother of the child benefits by sharing the financial responsibilities of the child with the father. Such responsibilities may include financial support for the child, including for the child's medical needs and education.

Once paternity is established, the child's mother will be able to file a petition for child support in order to have the father contribute to the child’s day to day care, schooling, food, clothing and other expenses. The mother can also obtain information about the father’s medical history.

Benefits for the Father:

Once paternity is established, the father now has legal status to the child. This means that the father is able to petition the court for custody or visitation. The father must also be notified of any potential adoption proceedings of the child and will be given the right to contest if he does not want his child put up for adoption.

Benefits for the Child:

The child will be able to obtain information about his or her father's medical history - this can be vitally important as it may relate to his or her own medical care or genetic conditions.

Also, the child will have the right to recover benefits under various state and federal laws which may include worker’s compensation, Social Security benefits, veteran’s benefits, inheritance rights, medical or life insurance and child support.

Resources

For a do it yourself guide to filing for paternity in New York Family Court click, here

For a list of paternity forms click, here

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