In New York, when a child is born to married parents, the presumption is that the husband is the legal father. When the parents are unmarried, it gets complicated.

The law does not assume that the mother’s current boyfriend is the child’s father, and steps need to be taken before the putative father receives parental rights and the child can benefit from a support obligation, inheritance rights, access to the father’s Social Security benefits, and more.

How paternity is established

There are two recognized ways of establishing paternity in New York:

  • Both the mother and father agree to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form, which is available at the hospital, local birth registrar or local district child support offices. It is important to note that if there is any doubt about who the child’s biological father is, then neither party should sign this form.
  • One of the parents requests a DNA test through the court. If the tests show that the presumed father is indeed the child’s biological parent, then the court will issue what is called an order of filiation, which is a legal acknowledgment of the relationship.

Benefits of establishing legal paternity include:

  • The father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate.
  • The child knows who their father is and, by extension, who their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are.
  • The child has the right to financial support from their father.
  • The child is eligible for coverage on the father’s health insurance plan if he has one.
  • The child can receive inheritance rights as well as their father’s Veteran’s benefits and Social Security.
  • The child has access to the father’s medical history, which can be invaluable when diagnosing illness.
  • The father can seek custody and visitation if he separates from the mother.
  • The father has a voice in any adoption proceedings.

Establishing paternity is especially crucial if the couple separates. As stated above, a child’s legal father can seek custody or visitation, even if the mother is bitter over the end of the relationship and tries to keep him away or turn the child against him. In the latter case, the behavior legally becomes a case of parental alienation, and the father has remedies available to him.

Contact a New York family law attorney

If you are an alleged father seeking to establish your parental rights or a mother who wants to ensure that your child is entitled to financial and emotional support from their legal father, then consult with a New York family law attorney who can advise you on the next steps. Confirming paternity can be a rewarding experience for both sides and ensure the child has a stronger sense of identity as they grow.

Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx lawyer who regularly handles family court matters. If you have questions regarding paternity or child custody, then contact Mr. Lutzky’s office at 718-514-6619. He offers free initial in-office consultations.