A biological father and a legal father are not the same thing. A child’s biological father is the man who provided genetic material to conceive the child. A legal father is a man with parental rights to the child. In many cases, the same man is both a legal and biological father. In some scenarios, a biological father has to establish his paternity in order to become his child’s legal father.

When a married woman gives birth, her husband is presumed to be the child’s biological father and automatically becomes the child’s legal father. When a new mother is not married, her child has no legal father until the child’s paternity is established.

Why Establishing Paternity is Necessary

Without establishing paternity, a man cannot have parental rights to his biological child. Having parental rights grants an individual the following:

    • The right to seek custody of a child;
    • The right to seek visitation with a child;
    • The right to establish a child support order. This goes two ways – as a legal parent, a father can establish a child support order or he can be named in one established by the child’s mother and required to make payments;
    • The ability to claim a child as a dependent on his tax returns and insurance policies; and
  • The right to be informed if the child is placed for adoption and be involved in any adoption proceedings.


Establishing Paternity in New York

There are two ways to establish paternity in New York:

    • Signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity; and
  • Having the court determine a child’s paternity.

Parents can take the first option easily if they agree about a child’s paternity. Acknowledgment of Paternity forms are available in hospitals, local birth registrars, and local district child support offices. When parents do not agree about their child’s paternity, a parent or one of the following individuals may file a petition with the court to open a paternity case:

    • The child;
    • A representative of a public welfare agency;
    • The child’s legal guardian or next of kin; or
  • A representative of a charitable or philanthropic society.

After receiving the petition, the court requires genetic testing for the child, the mother, and the alleged father. If the man is the child’s biological father, the court issues an order of filiation, which establishes the man as the child’s legal father. This does not automatically grant him custody in any form, but gives him the right to seek it.

A Dutchess County Family Lawyer can Help you through your Paternity Case

Your child deserves to have two parents in his or her life. Even if you have no intention of being in a relationship with your child’s other parent, you need to establish his or her parentage to ensure that he or she grows up with the benefits of having two parents. Set up your legal consultation with an experienced family lawyer at The Colwell Law Group, LLC today to get started on your paternity case.

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