As a Long Island Family Law attorney, I see first-hand, how the value of a father figure in a child’s life is immeasurable, yet I see some parents and families questioning or disregarding the value of legally establishing paternity. Under New York law, paternity is recognized as the legal status of being a father. The legal nature of paternity results in certain rights and responsibilities that would not exist absent the legal establishment of paternity, including child support obligations and visitation rights. The importance of establishing paternity lies in protecting the best interests of the child by providing the child with the same benefits as a child born to parents who are married.
How to Establish Paternity in Nassau County & Suffolk County, Long Island, New York
Legal Paternity in Nassau County & Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, is presumed when a child is born of a marriage and is therefore the legal child of both the father and the mother. Accordingly, if the child’s parents were married at the time of birth, paternity need not be established.
In the event a child is born out of wedlock, paternity can be established in two ways in New York. First, and most commonly effectuated, is an Acknowledgement of Paternity. In this situation, both parents sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form, in which both parents acknowledge that the man signing the form is the legal father of the child. If there is any doubt as to the identity of the natural father, this document should not be signed. The form must be signed by both parents and witnessed by two people who are not related to either of the parents. This form is usually signed at the hospital soon after the child is born; however, it can also be completed at some other time so long as it is signed by both parents and the independent witnesses in accordance with the law.
Second, paternity can be established by DNA tests, which have been shown to nearly conclusively establish whether an individual is a child’s natural father. Paternity establishment is also a way to determine the identity of the child’s biological father. In a situation where one parent does not wish to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity or the natural father is unknown, a Petition may be filed with the court in Nassau County or Suffolk County. The petition may be brought by the mother, alleged father, the child, or a legal guardian of the child. The petition can be filed anytime from the pregnancy until the child turns 21 years of age. The Petition will ask the court to call both parents and the child into court in order to obtain DNA from the child and the purported natural father of the child. In this case, when the father is identified, the court will issue an Order of Filiation.
For the father, legal paternal status results in a right to legal custody, physical custody, and visitation with the child. The legal father is allowed to petition the court for visitation and custody of the child, which affects his right to be involved in his child’s life. A legal father must also be notified of any potential adoption of the child and will need his legal status as father to have standing to contest an adoption proceeding. Legal paternal status also gives the Mother the right to petition in Nassau County Family Court or Suffolk County Family Court for child support payments from the father.
Benefits of Establishing Paternity in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York
For the child, once paternity is established, he or she is able to have both parents’ names on their birth certificate, receive medical or life insurance from both parents, and receive increased financial security by means of inheritance, Social Security benefits, and child support. A child can also benefit from visitation or custody with his or her father.
The mother of the child benefits from having paternity established insofar as the father becomes legally responsible for the child in terms of financial support (child support), medical needs, and education. Once paternity is established, the mother may petition for child support so that the father will be legally obligated to contribute to the child’s food, clothing, school, day care, medical, and other basic expenses.
If two individuals are not married at the time of the child’s birth, and the father has not signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity, the father does not have legal rights and duties to the child and so paternity must be established. Even if parents live together or plan to marry at some future date, paternity should be established in order for the child and both parents to secure certain rights.
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If you have questions about establishing paternity or how to protect your or your child’s interests in Nassau County, Suffolk County, or anywhere in New York State, reach out to an experienced family law attorney and child support lawyer who can provide personal advice and assistance. Contact us at 631-923-1910 or fill out the short form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.
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