When a child is born to parents who are married, the law automatically assumes that the mother's husband is the child's legal father. However, when a child is born out-of-wedlock, the child does not have a "legal father" until paternity is established.
To "establish paternity" simply means to determine who a child's legal father is. Even if a man says he is a child's father, unfortunately, that is not enough for him to enjoy his parental rights, including custody and visitation.
In New York, there are two ways to establish paternity:
- Both parents voluntarily sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form (this usually occurs at the hospital shortly after the child's birth), or
- The mother or presumed father petitions the court to determine paternity through a DNA test.
A child does not have a "legal father" until paternity is established. Remember, if you are not married to your child's other parent, the biological father is not responsible for child support, nor does he have any rights to custody or visitation until such time as paternity is established.
Why Should Paternity Be Established?
Once paternity is established, the child automatically has the same rights as a child whose parents were legally married. Here are some of the ways the child benefits from establishing paternity:
- The child can have their father's name on the birth certificate.
- The child has access to their father's medical history.
- The child can receive financial support from both parents.
- The child can receive health insurance from either parent, if it's available.
- The child can enjoy the following benefits from both parents: Social Security, Veteran's
benefits, child support, and inheritance rights.
In order for a man to enjoy his father's rights, paternity must be legally established. Once it is confirmed that a man is the father of his child, his name will be placed on his child's birth certificate, he can seek court-ordered custody and visitation, and he has the right to have a say in any future adoption proceedings (where applicable).
When There is Any Doubt About Paternity
If the mother or presumed father has any doubt about the identity of the child's biological father, they should not sign the voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form. Instead, they should open a paternity case in court.
If DNA tests prove that a presumed or alleged father is the child's biological father, the court will declare that he is the child's father by issuing an "order of filiation." From there, the mother or father can ask the court to order child support.
Looking for a Long Island family law attorney to handle your paternity case? ContactSamuelson Hause & Samuelson, LLP today.