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Legal Fatherhood in New York

All children deserve support from both parents, and the State of New York has a vested interest in protecting its children's interests. When parents are not married, legally establishing the father's paternity serves as a gateway to the rights and responsibilities associated with parenthood.

How paternity is established

A father can establish paternity at the time of a child's birth if both he and the mother sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. When an unmarried woman gives birth in New York, the hospital must provide this form and offer the parents the opportunity to sign it. If the Acknowledgment of Paternity is signed, the father has 60 days to move to set aside the acknowledgment, absent fraud.

If the Acknowledgment of Paternity was not completed, either parent can start a proceeding in a New York court to establish paternity by petitioning the court for an Order of Filiation. The parties must appear in court and submit to the court's procedures. Once the court issues the Order, paternity is established.

Obtaining an Order of Filiation

If a father consents to an Order of Filiation, the court will generally grant it. Parents should be certain that the putative father - the man that claims to be the father or who the mother claims is the father - is actually the child's biological father. It is very difficult to change an Order of Filiation that was executed by consent if it is later found that the putative father is not actually the biological father.

If the mother petitions for an Order, and the putative father does not show up for the court date, the court can issue the Order of Filiation by default. If he comes to court and denies that he fathered the child, the court will order blood or DNA tests for the mother, the child and the putative father. The test results will be used to determine whether the man is the biological father.

Proving paternity

Under New York law, if tests show there is a 95 percent chance or better that the man is the biological father, the court will issue the Order of Filiation. Even if the chance is less than 95 percent it may be possible to get an Order of Filiation, if there is other evidence that the putative father is the biological parent of the child.

Any of these actions by the putative father might be used as evidence to prove paternity:

  • Treating the child as his own child
  • Contributing financially to the child's needs
  • Allowing the child to use his last name without objection
  • Stating to other people or in some court proceeding that the child is his

Effects of establishing paternity

A child receives numerous benefits from having his or her paternity established, from financial support to health insurance coverage and more. But mothers and fathers benefit, too.

Established paternity gives the father the right to seek custody and visitation, as well as having a say in the matter if the mother decides to put the child up for adoption.

Established paternity allows the mother to share parental responsibilities with someone else.

To be fully informed about establishing paternity in New York, parents should contact an attorney specializing in family law. An attorney can guide them through the process and help ensure that children receive the full benefit of both parents' resources.