As an experienced divorce lawyer on Long Island, I often have to deal with issues of paternity in Nassau County and Suffolk County cases of child support, custody and visitation when a child is born out of wedlock.
While the parents of children born out of wedlock love them just the same as if they had been born within the legal definition of a marriage, they are not treated the same under New York State law when it comes to child support or child custody. Under the Family Court Act, the parents of a child born out of wedlock are responsible for the support of that child. However, the father of a child born out of wedlock is not financially responsible for that child, nor does he have any rights to custody or visitation of that child, without an Acknowledgement of Paternity or an Order of Filiation.
What is an Acknowledgement of Paternity?
An Acknowledgement of Paternity is a useful document in instances in which both parents agree that the individual seeking to be named the father of a child born out of wedlock is in fact the father of that child. This form, which is generally completed at the hospital upon the child’s birth, contains the full names of the child, the mother and the father, as well as the father’s date of birth and social security number. In order to avoid the potential for fraud, this form must be signed and notarized by both parents, in addition to being witnessed by two (2) uninterested, and unrelated, adult individuals. Once this form is properly completed, the custodial parent will have the right to receive child support on behalf of the child from the non-custodial parent, and the non-custodial parent will have the right to enjoy parenting time with the child away from the residence of the custodial parent. Naturally, this form should not be filled out if either party has any doubt as to who the father of the child is.
Can the Family Court in Nassau County or Suffolk County Assist Me?
In the event either party refuses or is otherwise unwilling to sign an acknowledgement of paternity, the party seeking to establish paternity may file a petition in Nassau County or Suffolk County Family Court. In the event the mother of the subject child is the recipient of public assistance, the Department of Social Services is permitted to commence such an action.
Once in the Nassau County or Suffolk County Family Court on a paternity petition, the mother, the child and the alleged father will be ordered to take a genetic marker, or DNA, test. If the tests indicate there is a ninety-five percent (95%) or greater probability of paternity, a rebuttable presumption of paternity shall be established. In the event the child’s mother or the alleged father wishes to challenge this presumption, it is their burden to disprove paternity. If not disproven, paternity is established.
These types of actions can be commenced from the time the mother becomes pregnant until the child attains the age of twenty-one (21) years.
What if My Child’s Mother was Married to Someone Else at the Time of Our Child’s Birth?
In New York, there is a rebuttable presumption that a child born to a married woman is the child of the marriage. Unfortunately, this presumption does not always ring true of the facts and circumstances surrounding the birth of a child. In such an instance, if either the mother or alleged father challenges paternity, the woman’s husband must be named in the law suit. Thereafter, the parties have the same remedies available to them as set forth above: an acknowledgement of paternity or an order of filiation.
What Does This Mean for Me in Nassau County or Suffolk County?
If you reside in Nassau County or Suffolk County and you believe you are the father of an out of wedlock child, establishing paternity means you now have legal rights to your child. Moving forward with a divorce attorney, Long Island residents will be able to petition the Nassau County or Suffolk County Family Court for custody and visitation rights, and you will be given the option to contest any potential adoption of your child.
If you are the mother of an out of wedlock child, establishing paternity means you have the right to receive child support from the father. An individual cannot be ordered to pay child support on behalf of a child that he or she is not legally tied to.
Most importantly, the establishment of paternity plays a large role in the child’s life. Not only will the child now know he or she has two (2) loving parents, but the child will also be able to obtain both parents’ medical history, and have the potential ability to receive benefits under various federal and state laws on behalf of either parent.
Receive a Free Consultation from an Experienced Divorce Lawyer, Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq.
If you have questions about the paternity of a child born out of wedlock, you should consult an experienced local divorce attorney to protect your and the child’s rights. Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., PC’s compassionate and experienced divorce attorneys can help. Call us at 631-923-1910 for a complimentary, confidential consultation or fill out the short form on this page and we’ll get right back to you
Check out our Divorce Guide for Dads for more information about divorce issues specifically related to fathers.
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