Paternity legally declares who the father of a child is.
How is paternity established?
Paternity can be established in three different ways in New York State:
1. If the mother is married when the child is born, the state assumes that her husband is the father. If he is not the father, he can choose whether or not to claim paternity.
Who can start a paternity proceeding?
The child’s mother, the man who thinks he is the father, the child, the child’s legal guardian, or the Department of Social Services (DSS) (if the child gets public assistance) can all start a paternity proceeding.
How does an Acknowledgment of Paternity work?
An Acknowledgment of Paternity legally establishes paternity. It is a voluntary form that both parents sign. Acknowledgments of Paternity are usually signed at the hospital where the child is born, but they can be used to establish paternity until the child turns 21. You can find the form at hospitals and your local DSS office.
If a father cannot establish paternity through an Acknowledgment of Paternity, he can register for the "Putative Father Registry." Although this does not legally establish his paternity, it does give him the right to be notified if someone else tries to establish paternity or adopt the child. For more information on the Putative Father Registry, call the New York State Adoption Service’s office at (518) 474-9406 or (800) 345-5437.
How do I establish paternity in court?
If you would like to establish paternity but are unable to get the other parent to sign an acknowledgment, it is possible to get a court order (called an order of filiation) that legally establishes paternity. To start the court proceeding, you must file a Paternity Petition in Family Court. This can be done at any point until the child turns 21. The petition can be filed before the child is born. You may want to do this if you know you cannot get an Acknowledgment of Paternity because the mother is still married. You can find the form either at court or you can print the form here: https://courts.state.ny.us/courthelp/forms.html .
If the parents cannot agree who the father of the child is, the court will probably order DNA tests. The case will then be adjourned until a later date. If the tests show that the man is not the father the case will probably be dismissed. If the tests show that the man probably is the father, but the parties still
do not agree, a hearing will be scheduled.
At the court hearing, the judge will consider the DNA evidence as well as any other evidence either parent may provide. If the court determines that there is enough evidence, it will declare the man the father and issue an order of filiation.
For a video that describes the court procedure for child support and paternity cases please go to: http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/family/vid_wyntk.shtml .
Why do I want to establish paternity?
Legally establishing paternity gives certain rights and responsibilities to both the father and the child.
Rights and responsibilities of the father: obligation to support the child until age 21, right to share custody and/or visitation (unless there is a court order that prevents this), right to block foster placement or adoption, and the right to make medical, educational, and other important decisions in the child’s life.
Rights of the child: right to child support, inheritance, share in wrongful death claims and Social Security benefits, and qualification as a dependent for health insurance.
What happens if the mother was married to another man when the child was born?
The state assumes that the man the mother was married to when the child was born is the legal father. Her husband can either sign an "affidavit of no access", which allows the paternity case with another man to continue or he can choose to raise the child as his own. If he chooses to do this, however, he will most likely not be able to change his paternity claim later. The courts, in the best interests of the child, will probably not be willing to change paternity for an older child.
What happens if paternity is established?
The court will assume paternity if a genetic test shows a 95% probability. When paternity is established, either parent can then ask for child support, custody, and visitation rights. This will require a separate court hearing. For more information, please see the articles titled "Child Custody and Visitation Rights in New York " and "Child Support in New York " on our website.
For more information on paternity, please visit the New York State Division of Child Support Enforcement website here: https://newyorkchildsupport.com/paternity_establishment.html
This article provides general information about this subject. Laws affecting this subject may have changed since this article was written. For specific legal advice about a problem you are having, get the advice of a lawyer. Receiving this information does not make you a client of our office.