Paternity establishment refers to the process of determining the legal father of a child. When a child is born to unmarried parents, the child has no legal father. In New York, unmarried parents can establish paternity in two ways:
- by signing a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form; or
- by petitioning a court to determine paternity.
What is paternity establishment? Paternity establishment is the process of determining the legal father of a child. Every child has a biological father, but if the parents are not married, the child has no legal father, and the biological father has no rights or responsibilities to the child. In order for the biological father to be the legal father, the parents must establish paternity for the child.
Why is it important to establish paternity? By establishing paternity for the child, the parents are ensuring that the child has the same rights and benefits as children born to married parents.
How does the child benefit from paternity establishment? The child receives both emotional and financial benefits from paternity establishment, such as
- Reassurance that the parents cared enough to acknowledge paternity.
- Having the father’s name on the birth certificate.
- Medical or life insurance from either parent, if available.
- Information about family medical history
- Financial support from both parents, including
- Social Security
- Veterans benefits
- Inheritance rights, and
- Child support.
What benefits does the mother receive from paternity establishment? The mother receives several benefits from paternity establishment, such as
- Sharing parental responsibility;
- Information about the father’s medical history;
- Improving the financial security of the family; and
- Medical insurance coverage for the child from the father’s medical insurance, if available.
What benefits does the father receive from paternity establishment? The father receives several benefits from paternity establishment:
- Legal establishment of his parental rights;
- Having his name on his child’s birth certificate;
- The right to seek court ordered custody and visitation; and
- The right to be informed and have a say in adoption proceedings.
How do unmarried parents establish paternity? There are two ways for unmarried parents to establish paternity in New York State:
- Signing a voluntary form called an Acknowledgment of Paternity (available from hospitals, local district child support offices, and local birth registrars); and
- Filing a court petition to have the court determine paternity.
What if there is doubt about the identity of the biological father? If there is any doubt about the identity of the biological father, parents must not sign a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. Instead, the parents should petition the court to determine paternity. The court will order the mother, child, and alleged father to submit to certain genetic tests. Based on the results of the test, the court will determine whether the alleged father is the legal father of the child.
If the alleged father is shown to be the biological father, the court will issue an order of filiation, declaring that the man is the father of the child. After the order of filiation is issued, either parent can seek an order for child support.