When parents are married, the mother’s husband is generally presumed to be the legal father of their children. But when the parents are unmarried or the mother, the man alleging to be the father, the child or a guardian disputes the assumption, paternity must be established.
In New York, parents can voluntarily sign a form called an Acknowledgement of Paternity to establish the legal father of the child. But when there is a dispute, your other option is to file a court petition. If you are involved in a paternity action, this is what to expect during the initial administrative hearing:
- The parents or other parties appear in court before a support magistrate.
- If the father admits he is the father and the mother or other party does not dispute it, an order of filiation, or paternity order, is entered and the case is over.
- If there is a dispute over paternity, the court orders the mother, possible father and children to take blood or DNA tests.
Because the parties must undergo lab tests, they are given an appointment date, the hearing ends and another court date is set. During the follow-up hearing, this is what usually takes place:
- The court explains the test results.
- If the parties agree on paternity after hearing the results, the court issues a paternity order.
- If the parties still do not agree, a hearing is scheduled.
During this hearing, the parties can testify, have witnesses testify and submit evidence, including the blood or DNA tests. Once all the evidence is submitted, the court decides whether there is proof of paternity or whether the case should be dismissed.
Because paternity gives fathers certain rights and obligations, including the right to custody and the obligation to pay child support, it can be hotly contested. An experienced New York child custody attorney can guide you through the process and help you protect your rights and your child.