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Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga & Oswego Counties


Family Court


Paternity

 

What Is a Paternity Case?

When a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, the biological father is not considered the child's legal parent unless the father has signed an "Acknowledgment of Paternity" (usually done at the hospital at the time of the child's birth) declaring himself to be the child's father, or an "order of filiation" has been entered, which is a court order that declares that person to be the legal father. A petition may be filed in Family Court seeking an order of filiation.

 

Why is it Necessary to Have an Order of Filiation Made?

If a man was not married to the mother of the child, he has no obligation to pay support for the child, and has no legal right to custody or visitation with the child, unless he is legally named the father of the child, through an order of filiation or an acknowledgment of paternity.

 

Who May File a Paternity Petition?

The petition may be filed by the child's mother, by a man who believes he is the father of the child, by the child or by the child's guardian. If the child is receiving public assistance, the Department of Social Services may file a petition against the alleged father, seeking an order of filiation and an order of support. In some cases, a paternity petition may be filed even if the alleged father has died.

The petition and a summons must be served upon (delivered to) the respondent.

There are no filing fees in Family Court.

If you are the mother or a man who believes he is the father, you can use the free and easy DIY Form program to ask the Family Court to name the child's legal father.

If you are not the child's parents, you can use this form to start your Paternity case.

*DIY (Do-It-Yourself)

 

What if the Mother was Married to Someone Else?

If the mother was married at the time the child was conceived or born, her husband is considered to be the legal father of the child, even though he might not be the biological father, unless a court decides that he is not the father. A copy of the paternity petition must be served upon the husband to notify him about the court case. After he is served, a judge may make a ruling concerning his relationship to the child. If the judge decides that the husband is not the father, the paternity case against the other alleged father may continue.

 

What Documents must be Brought to Court?

The petitioner should present a copy of the child's birth certificate.

 

Do the Parties Need Lawyers?

The parties may represent themselves or may hire lawyers. A respondent who cannot afford to hire a lawyer has the right to have a lawyer assigned at no cost.

 

What Happens at the Hearing?

Initially, the parties appear before a Support Magistrate. In some counties, you may appear before a Judicial Hearing Officer. If the mother was not married when the child was conceived or born, and the respondent admits that he is the father, the Support Magistrate (or Judicial Hearing Officer) enters an order of filiation. If the respondent denies that he is the father, the Support Magistrate (or Judicial Hearing Officer) will order blood or DNA tests of both parties and the child and adjourn the case to another date. The parties are given an appointment date for the laboratory tests.

When the parties return to court, the test results are explained by the court. The blood or DNA tests may exclude the man as the biological father, or may show how probable it is that he is the father. If the respondent admits paternity, an order of filiation is entered. If the parties cannot agree on paternity, the matter is then scheduled for a hearing. Both parties may testify and present witnesses and the blood or DNA test results may be offered in evidence. If the petitioner presents sufficient proof, the court will enter an order of filiation; if not, the petition will be dismissed.

After paternity has been decided, if the custodial parent seeks an order of child support, or is receiving public assistance for the child, the Magistrate will conduct a support hearing.

There is an informative twenty minute video which, in a step by step manner, will take you through the process of a paternity or child support proceeding in the New York State Family Court. You will learn what documents are necessary and what to expect in the court room.

"What You Need to Know About Child Support Hearings and Services" (Video)