White Plains Paternity Lawyer

Establishing Paternity is Key to Determining Parental Rights and Responsibilities, Including Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support

How Is Paternity Established in New York?

In New York State, a husband is automatically considered to be the legal father of his wife’s children born during their marriage. However, paternity can still be disputed by either married parent if there are legitimate grounds.

Whenever a heterosexual couple has a child, the rule is that any child born into the marriage is a legal child of both parents. This same rule technically applies to same sex couples/LGBTQ parents, but in general, attorneys advise clients to take extra steps to ensure both of them have legal parentage.

In the case of unmarried parents, there are several ways to legally establish paternity:

  • The parents are both named as mother and father on the child’s birth certificate.
  • The mother and father voluntarily sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity of the child. This is usually done at the hospital when the baby is born but can be signed anytime until the child reaches 21 years old. If either the mother or the assumed father is not sure he is the biological father, neither should sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity document.
  • Either the mother or alleged father can file a petition with Family Court for an Order of Filiation, which is a court order naming a specific man as the child’s father.
  • Either the mother or the presumptive father can file a petition with the Family Court to order DNA testing of both parties to confirm or deny paternity. If the DNA test confirms paternity, the Court will issue an Order of Filiation naming the child’s biological father as the legal father. If paternity is denied through the DNA test, the case is normally dismissed.

What Are Parental Rights and Obligations Once Paternity is Established?

Once paternity is legally established, either the mother or father can petition the Court to assert their rights to child custody and visitation and child support.

It is important to note that in New York State:

  • Full legal and physical custody of a child is automatically granted to an unmarried mother, unless she is legally deemed unfit. Likewise, the unmarried mother is solely responsible for the care and support of the child.
  • The unmarried biological father has no automatic rights nor responsibilities and must petition the Family Court to pursue child custody and visitation rights if he so chooses. He is also not obligated to pay child support until his paternity of the child is legally determined.
  • An unmarried mother can pursue a child support order against the father once paternity is legally established, usually by the Court’s issuance of an Order of Filiation. This Order gives the unmarried father rights to child custody and visitation and obligates him to financially support the child. Once paternity is legally established, issues such as child support payments, parenting plans and visitation schedules are decided in the same way as a married couple who are divorcing.

How Does a Child Benefit from the Establishment of Paternity?

For child-related issues in New York State, the Family Court adheres to the principle of what is in the best interests of the child in its decisions. Those benefits can bring significant legal, personal, and financial reasons to firmly establish paternity for your child, especially if you are unmarried.

  • The emotional benefit of knowing who both parents are, and the opportunity to develop relationships with their mother, father, and even extended family members on both sides.
  • The father will have rights to child custody and visitation, allowing him access to information in his child’s medical and school records.
  • The child would have access to the family medical history of both parents, which could be information vital to the child’s present and future medical care.
  • The child would have inheritance rights to the father’s estate.
  • The child would have rights to the father’s Social Security benefits, should he die or become disabled, as well as to the father’s Veteran’s benefits and any workers compensation claim benefits.
  • The child would have the right to file a wrongful death claim and share in any wrongful death financial award for the father.
  • Financial support from both parents, rather than just one.
  • Ability to access life insurance and healthcare coverage from either parent, if available.
  • The father will be alerted to any adoption proceedings and will have the legal standing to contest the adoption if he so chooses.

Paternity issues can be complicated, sensitive, and emotionally charged, often leading to high-conflict disputes requiring legal resolution in court. It is strongly recommended that you seek experienced, knowledgeable attorney guidance to assert your rights and protect your interests in a paternity or any other family law matter.

White Plains Paternity Lawyer, Karen M. Jansen, offers her clients more than two decades of highly skilled family law attorney experience to clients in Yonkers, New Rochelle, and all communities in Westchester County, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, and Dutchess Counties, as well as the Bronx and all of New York City, and communities throughout New York State.

We offer a free 15-minute initial phone or video consultation, which can be scheduled by calling our office at 914 821 5200 or by completing and submitting our online Contact Form.