When paternity is contested, a Court is empowered to order the mother, child, and the possible father to submit to DNA tests in order to establish paternity. The court may decline to order such tests, however, where the child’s best interests would not be served – for example, in circumstances where a father has treated the child as his own such and established a parental relationship with the child, or where the parents are married to one another.

The Family Court Act states that children who are born to parents who are married to one another are presumed by the law to be the legitimate children of the married couple, regardless of whether the parents were married before or after the child’s birth. Paternity can also be established where a father is listed on the child’s birth certificate or signs an Acknowledgement of Paternity and files the Acknowledgement in the district where the child’s birth certificate was filed. Additionally, where a father supports a child, establishes a parental relationship with a child, and holds the child out as his own, the father may be prevented from later denying paternity of the child.

Once paternity is established, the Court will issue an Order of Filiation, and file the Order with the health department of the state. The Court will also issue a Child Support Order, and often, an Order of Custody/Visitation. Pursuant to the Child Support Order, the father will be legally obligated to support the child in accordance with the Child Support Standards Act. (See Westchester Matrimonial’s Child Support Article for more information about how child support is calculated in New York State). Pursuant to the Order of Custody/Vistation, the father may be entitled to visitation with the child (See Westchester Matrimonial’s Custody and Visitation Article for more information about how custody and visitation are awarded in New York State).

Proceedings to establish the paternity of a child may be instituted at any time beginning with the pregnancy of the mother. After the child turns twenty-one, a paternity proceeding may no longer be instituted, unless paternity has been previously acknowledged by the father in writing or by the father providing support to the child.

Determinations of paternity of a child that are made in a state other than New York in accordance with that state’s laws is accorded full faith and credit, meaning that the determination will be accepted and enforced in New York as if New York had originally made the determination.

Do you have questions about the establishment of paternity? Contact a knowledgeable, professional Westchester Matrimonial Attorney today to have all your questions answered!

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