Experienced Child Custody Lawyers Buffalo NY

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Children benefit from having both parents for support. However, it’s not always clear who the biological or legal father is. Knowing the truth of paternity is important, because it establishes what rights a father will have with his child, the benefits available to the child, and provides the child with the opportunity to grow up knowing his or her father.

Despite the relative ease in which science can establish paternity, it’s a bit more complicated in the family law context. At Cole, Sorrentino, Hurley, Hewner & Gambino, P.C., our child custody lawyers know how the parental rights process works in Buffalo’s family court system. We can help those dealing with legal issues regarding paternity.

What Is Paternity?

Within the family law context, paternity refers to the legal father of a child. This is a very important designation, because only the legal father will have the right and responsibility to make decisions about how the child should be raised and cared for. The legal father will also be responsible for the financial support of the child. Under New York law, if a child is born to unmarried parents, the child will be initially viewed under the law as having no legal father.

What Are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?

For the Mother

  • Having a father to share parental responsibility, including financial support
  • Having access to the father’s medical history

For the Father

  • Having his name on the birth certificate
  • Having visitation and custody rights (if applicable)
  • Right to be informed about certain situations in the child’s life, such as the child being adopted by another family

For the Child

  • Growing up knowing the father cares enough to establish paternity
  • Having the father’s name on the birth certificate
  • Financial benefits, including child support, Social Security, Veterans benefits, inheritance rights and medical insurance

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How Is Paternity Established in New York?

Paternity can be established in three ways: by presumption, by Acknowledgement of Paternity or by Order of Filiation.


When a child is conceived and born to married parents, the law presumes the husband and wife are the father and mother of the child. Because this is a legal presumption, it can be rebutted in court in certain situations.

Rebutting this presumption is not always as simple as doing a DNA paternity test. While a DNA test is commonly used, its results may be disregarded by the court when those results would result in an unfair or unjust situation. For example, a man who has held himself out as the father of a child since birth may be legally prevented from claiming he is not the father of a child later in the child’s life, even if a DNA paternity test were to prove he wasn’t the father.

Acknowledge of Paternity

When a child is born to an unmarried mother, the father can establish legal paternity by voluntarily signing a form called the Acknowledgement of Paternity. This form will be available at birth registrars and hospitals. Both the mother and the father are required to sign the form. Once this form is signed by the parents (and two witnesses), the father will be considered the legal father and have the rights and responsibilities than come with it.

Order of Filiation

An Order of Filiation is a court order that declares who the legal father is. Before such an order can be issued by the court, several things need to happen.

First, someone files a Paternity Petition with the court. Only certain people may file this petition, such as the mother, the man claiming to be the father, the child’s guardian or the New York Department of Social Services (in limited circumstances). The Paternity Petition may be filed any time until the child turns 21, although there are some exceptions to this time limit.

Second, the court will hold hearings to figure out who the legal father is. The court will often order the mother, child and potential father to submit to a DNA test. In order to establish paternity, there must be clear and “convincing evidence” to prove who the biological father is. Most of the time, as long as there is at least 95% certainty from a DNA test that the man is the father, it will be enough to establish paternity.

Sometimes a DNA test won’t be necessary, such as when the alleged father admits to the court he’s the father of the child.

Contact our Child Custody Lawyers in Buffalo NY

If there are questions as to the paternity of your child and you’re wondering how that may affect you or your child’s legal rights, contact us, whether through our website or by calling at the number above. We welcome the opportunity to serve you and your family.

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