New York fathers may be curious about what rights they have under the law. For unmarried parents, the first step is to establish paternity. If the mother is unmarried and there is no question regarding the father's identity, one option is for both parents to sign an affidavit of paternity. Otherwise, the parties must go to court to establish their respective rights and obligations.
Paternity must be established by a judge rather than by affidavit if there is more than one potential father, if the mother was married to someone else when the child was conceived or if the father does not wish to sign the affidavit. The affidavit creates a binding obligation, so it is only signed when the man is ready to assert his parental rights and accept parental responsibilities, including the obligation to pay child support.
A man who has been served with court papers naming him as the father of a child has a right to request genetic marker test before the case proceeds. He will be required to pay for the test if it determines that he is the father. The father can, however, dispute the test results. Once paternity is determined the parents can begin to work out a custody and visitation schedule to enable the father to establish a relationship with his child. If the parents cannot agree, the father has a right to request a trial.
A family law attorney may be able to help unmarried fathers file to request paternity tests of any children and seek to help establish support and visitation schedules. Assistance may involve negotiating with a custody and support agreement with the mother, but might also involve arguing to a judge why the proposed plan is best for the child.
Source: Suffolk County Goverment, "Paternity Information for Fathers", September 15, 2014