When children are born to married couples there is usually no question regarding the parentage of the newborns. However, many New Yorkers choose to start families before they marry or when they are in relationships that may never be formalized through marriage. When a child is born to an unmarried couple the filial relationship between the mother and child is clear. If the father and mother are no longer in a relationship or if the mother is unsure of the child’s father, though, issues regarding paternity may arise.

A father may recognize a child as his own by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity. This document legalizes the relationship between the father and child and grants in the father rights to custody over the child as well as responsibilities to support the child through financial care. If a father is does not sign such an acknowledgement, then he may have to undergo paternity testing to prove that he is the biological parent of the child.

Either a mother or a presumptive father can initiate the process of establishing paternity for a child support or child custody case. Paternity testing involves comparing a presumptive father’s biological information against the biological information of the child. If the information matches, then the man will be determined to be the child’s father.

Once a man is determined to be a child’s father either through an Acknowledgement of Paternity or through paternity testing he can seek custody of his child. However, as with child custody matters that arise pursuant to divorces, a court will establish a custody plan for a child based on the child’s best interests. To learn more about the role that paternity plays in custody and other family law matters readers are encouraged to contact their legal representatives.