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Helping New Yorkers Establish Paternity

Even though you and your child’s mother know that you are the father of your child, you are not the legal father unless you and the mother are married. The easiest way to become a legal father of your child is for you and the mother of your child to complete a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. This form can be completed any time after your child is born, at a hospital, clinic, child support office, family court, or birth registrar’s office.

If the mother was married to someone else at any time during her pregnancy or at the time of birth, you must go to court to establish paternity.

Why Should I Legally Acknowledge Paternity?

You cannot seek visitation or custody of your child unless you are determined to be a parent of the child. In addition, your child will be able to obtain benefits that are available through you such as health insurance through your employer and money from social security if you are the legal father.

Completing the Acknowledgment of Paternity will also give you legal father’s rights. It will allow you to:

  1. Have your name on your child’s birth certificate.
  2. Seek court-ordered visitation and custody.
  3. Have a say in adoption proceedings.

By signing the voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form, you take responsibility for supporting your child until they turn 21.

If you are not sure you are the father of the child, you should not sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity form. You or the person taking care of the child can start a court action to decide the issue of paternity. If this action is taken, you will have to appear in court.

To make sure that the amount a person has to pay for child support is fair, the court uses a standard guideline to figure out what a person should pay based on how much they make in a year.

What Is A Paternity Proceeding?

If someone besides you starts a court action to get you to pay child support, you will find out about it by getting two documents. These documents are petition and a summons.

The petition shows that someone has asked a court to make an order against you. The summons tells you that you must come to court for a hearing about this. The summons also tells you where you have to go, when you have to be there, and what, if anything, you have to bring with you. You may get these documents in the mail, someone may give them to you in person, or they may be left at the door where you live or work.

At court, a hearing will be held to find out if you are the father, if necessary, as well as to figure out how much you will have to pay for child support. You do not need a lawyer for the court hearing, but you can hire one if you want. You should bring your latest tax returns, W-2s, paycheck stubs, and everything else you have to show your current income. The judge or hearing examiner will use this information and other information presented by other parties to figure out what you should pay for child support for your child.

More information about paternity actions and child support is provided in the Divorce FAQs.

Contact New York City family law attorney Robert G. Smith for more information about paternity actions.