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What are the benefits of establishing paternity?

Because a child born to parents who are not married does not have a legal father, New York residents involved in such a situation may need to legally establish paternity. Some may wonder whether this is really necessary, and it is helpful to note that this effort assures a child of the same rights and benefits that a child born to married parents receives. These benefits may include having access to medical and life insurance benefits from either parent when available. Additionally, this provides a child with access to important family information related to medical issues.

In addition to benefits for a child, a mother may be able to benefit more by establishing paternity upon the birth of a child. One of the advantages is access to medical benefits for a child provided they are available through the father. Additionally, the parenting responsibility and support for the child may be shared. A father may benefit from the establishment of paternity by having legal parental rights established. These may include custody and visitation along with information and input related to adoption proceedings.

Paternity in New York may be established in one of two ways. A voluntary form known as Acknowledgement of Paternity may be obtained from hospitals, birth registrars or child support agencies and signed. A petition may also be filed with the court for determining parentage. If doubt exists related to a biological father's identity, the voluntary form may not be used. Genetic testing must be ordered for both parents and the child, allowing the court to determine whether the alleged father is the biological parent.

A father who wants to have a role in a child's life may find that it is necessary to pursue legal action if the child's mother is uncooperative in pursuing the voluntary route to establishing paternity. A family law attorney can assist a client in filing the necessary petition with the court in such a case.

Source: Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, "Paternity Establishment", September 22, 2014

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