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How do paternity issues affect a child support case?

The establishment of a legal relationship between an alleged father and child may be important in a child support case. It is important to note that even if a man is listed as the father of a child on a birth certificate, this does not necessarily establish the legal relationship unless the parents were married at any point before or after the birth of the child. A mother who has not been married to the father of her child and who is seeking child support may also need an order of filiation to establish paternity.

An acknowledgement of paternity may be signed at the hospital if a man wants to voluntarily establish his position as a father. An order of filiation addresses the issue if a man is unwilling to acknowledge or disputes paternity in connection with a child support petition. Such a matter is handled in a New York family court, where an alleged father may agree with or contest the order.

In a contested case, blood and DNA testing may be ordered. Even if results indicate that a man is the father, he may still contest paternity. The case would then be addressed by a family court judge, and the individual would need to provide evidence demonstrating that he is not the father of the child in question. If paternity is upheld, the order of filiation is filed with the state Putative Fathers Registry. In addition to establishing a child's right to support, a legal relationship entitles a father to seek custody or visitation.

An unwed mother may be concerned about whether the father of her child will acknowledge paternity or dispute a claim. Although acknowledgement may simplify the situation and streamline efforts in establishing support, an order of filiation provides a legal means of proceeding if the father is uncooperative.

Source: New York City bar, "CHILD SUPPORT: Questions and Answers", December 22, 2014

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