Establishing and Protecting a Father’s Rights

Fathers have the same rights as mothers when it comes to their children. This means that a father can seek child custody, visitation and child support in a New York divorce. It is important to have the help of a seasoned attorney when determining the best strategy for asserting your rights as a father.

What happens if you were not married to the mother when your child was born? While you are the child’s biological father, you are not recognized under New York law as the legal father. Therefore, you need to establish paternity of your child in one of the following ways:

  • Marriage. If the parents of a child are married when the child is born, paternity is automatically established. In most divorce cases, paternity is not an issue.
  • Acknowledgement of Paternity. An unmarried couple can voluntarily sign a legal document called an Acknowledgement of Paternity in the hospital when the child is born to legally establish paternity. The form is also available at local district child support offices and local birth registrars.
  • Court order. Paternity can be established by a court order. Both the mother and the alleged father can file a petition with the court. Establishing paternity may require genetic testing. This usually involves a DNA test conducted by swabbing the inside of your cheek and the child’s cheek. If you are established to be the biological father, the court issues an Order of Filiation, which declares you to be the father of the child.

Paternity gives certain rights and benefits to the mother, the father and the child. Once you have established paternity, you have the legal right to seek child custody, child support or visitation. You can also request an order giving you a say in legal decisions regarding your child. It is important to discuss all of your legal options with a skilled father’s rights attorney.

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