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Unmarried parents should establish paternity

Discovering you are the biological father of a child can cause a range of emotions, both good and bad. In many cases, the news may be unexpected. In others, you may have been part of the pregnancy and birthing process with the mother.

No matter what you are feeling, there are actions you need to take to establish your parental rights. Legally establishing paternity will protect those rights. Or, in other cases, a mother may need to establish paternity to receive proper financial support. 

In New York, paternity can be established in one of three ways:

  • If a mother is married at the time a child is born, the spouse is assumed to be the father. If he is not, he can choose whether or not to claim paternity.
  • If a mother is not married, the father can sign an "Acknowledgement of Paternity" form.
  • If a father does not voluntarily agree to sign the "Acknowledgement of Paternity," or the mother disputes a claim of paternity, either party can petition the Family Court.

Petitions for paternity can be filed until a child turns 21. During the court process, the alleged father will be required to submit to genetic test. If the test results show a probability 95 percent or higher, the courts will declare paternity. The court will then issue an order of filiation, which declares that man is the father of the child. Separate petitions then need to be filed to determine child support and custody or visitation. An experienced family law attorney can help with these petitions, or at any point in the paternity process.

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