How Can an Unmarried Father Prove Paternity to Get Custody in New York?
When a child is born to unmarried parents, there is no legal father unless paternity is established. Until that is done, the father has no legal rights or obligations concerning the child. He cannot be required to pay child support. He also cannot petition the court for custody or visitation. Establishing paternity is beneficial to the mother, father, and child. It gives the child the same rights and benefits that children born to married parents are entitled to and particularly gives all paternal rights to the father.
Establishing Paternity Under New York Law
There are two ways under New York law that allows a man to prove he is the father of the child:
- The parents can both sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity. Each signature must be witnessed by two people, but it is not required that the same witnesses have to witness each signature. The form is commonly signed at the hospital shortly after the mother gives birth. Even so, the document can be signed anytime. The form can be found at hospitals, local birth registrars, and child support offices.
- The man can file a petition in court asking to establish that he is the biological and legal father of the child.
A Petition to Establish Paternity
If the alleged father refuses to sign an Acknowledgment of Parenthood, or the mother refuses to sign, one or both parents can petition the court to determine paternity. The court will then order the mother, the child, and the alleged father to submit to certain genetic tests. Based on the results of the tests, the court will determine whether the alleged father is the legal father of the child.
If the man is found to be the biological father, the court will issue an order of filiation. This order names the man as the father of the child. After the order of filiation is issued, the father has all paternal rights.
Rights of Father of Establishing Paternity
A man who has established paternity has the following rights relevant to his child:
- To have his name on the birth certificate.
- The right to petition the court for custody or visitation.
- The right to participate with the mother in making important decisions for the child.
- The right to be informed and agree or disagree with any attempt by the mother to have the child adopted.