The Importance of Establishing Paternity

Paternity is the legal term for determining the father of a child. In New York, when parents are married at the time a child is born, the husband is presumed to be the father. Parents can also establish paternity through a voluntary, signed acknowledgement, or, when there is disagreement, through a court order.

Whether the parents agree or disagree on who the father is, establishing paternity is important for both parents and children. For children, paternity has a significant emotional benefit in that it gives them a sense of identity and the reassurance that both parents care about them. This also gives children valuable insight into their family medical history. In addition, paternity provides the child with financial support by both parents:

  • Child support
  • Social Security benefits
  • Veterans’ benefits
  • Medical and  insurance coverage
  • Inheritance

Mothers and fathers also benefit from establishing paternity. For mothers, paternity means you can share responsibility for your child, including care of the child and financial support, insurance benefits, medical coverage and other benefits. If a father disagrees, paternity may be the only way to obtain a child support order and enforce it. Mothers also benefit from knowing the father’s medical history when treating young children.

There are many reasons for fathers to seek a paternity establishment. Without a determination of paternity, a father may have no right to custody of his children, including parenting time and decision-making rights in the upbringing of his children. Paternity also gives a father the right to be informed about adoption proceedings, as well as other legal proceedings. For example, if the mother wishes to give up the child, the child has been removed from her care, or if the mother has remarried and her new spouse wishes to adopt the child, a paternity order may be useful for the father. Without paternity, a father’s rights to his child could be cut off by the new husband.

Paternity establishment may be as simple as seeking genetic testing and a court order or as complicated as proving the husband at the time of birth is not the real father. An experienced New York family law attorney can assist parents and children through all types of paternity issues and related matters.

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