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What you need to know about paternity laws in New York

You and your partner are on the verge of separation. You never married, but you did have a child together. Now you are wondering what your legal rights are as an unmarried father when it comes to custody.

The state of New York provides certain guidelines that will help you establish paternity. When dealing with child custody issues and separation from your partner, take the time to fully understand your rights as a parent and options when it comes to visitation and co-parenting.

Included below are some basic facts about establishing paternity and child custody laws in New York.

Paternity laws

In New York, the law will not recognize you as the father of your child if you and the mother were not married at the time of the birth. In order to obtain rights as the legal father, you must establish paternity.

Claiming your status as the legal father does not necessarily mean that you will have to automatically pay child support or have any visitation or custody of your child. A completely separate court hearing is required to address custody issues.

Voluntary acknowledgement

There are two main ways to establish paternity in New York. One option is to sign the voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form. You can obtain this form at any local hospital and it does not require filing fees.

Eligibility for AOP

There are certain circumstances that may make you ineligible to use the AOP. For example, if the mother was legally married to someone else when she became pregnant, during the pregnancy, or at the time of the birth, you cannot sign the AOP.

Other factors include if the mother was separated but not actually divorced or if you are not entirely sure that you are the father.

Paternity petition

Another option for establishing paternity is to file a petition with the court. This will require DNA testing to determine if you are, in fact, the father of the child.

You, the mother, and the child will have to go to a designated facility for the DNA test. After a saliva sample is taken, the lab will process the results and send them directly to the court.

Reasons to establish paternity

Once you have established paternity of your child, you now have the right to seek court-ordered custody and visitation. Also, this offers you a measure of protection if the mother becomes unable to suitably care for your child.

Determining paternity and settling custody rights can be a difficult process, especially if you and your partner are ending the relationship with a high degree of animosity. Be sure to understand your rights as the father and what process you need to go through to be recognized as such by the court.

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