New York's process for contesting paternity.

Understanding the Process for Contesting Paternity in New York

In New York State, establishing paternity can have significant legal implications, affecting child support, custody, and inheritance rights. When paternity is in question, either party involved may seek to contest it. The process of challenging paternity is legally complex and requires a thorough understanding of the state's laws and procedures.

Initiating the Process

The process to contest paternity typically starts with a petition to the Family Court in the county where the child resides. This petition can be filed by the mother, presumed father, or even the child through a representative. In some cases, a government agency may also initiate the proceedings if it affects the determination of child support.

Grounds for Contesting Paternity

To challenge paternity in New York, an individual must have reasonable grounds to believe that the presumed father is not the biological parent. Grounds for contesting paternity may include evidence of sterility, infertility, or lack of access during the time of conception. An individual may also present proof that another man could be the biological father.

Genetic Testing

If paternity is contested, the court will typically order genetic marker or DNA testing. These tests are highly accurate and can either confirm or exclude a man as the biological father. However, it's crucial to note that if a man has been declared the legal father by default or acknowledgment, there may be limitations on his ability to contest paternity later on.

Legal Presumptions and Challenges

New York law presumes that a man is the father of a child if he is married to the mother at the time of birth or if he has signed an acknowledgment of paternity. Overturning this presumption requires clear and convincing evidence. For instance, in Matter of Shondel J. v Mark D., a landmark case in 2006, although genetic testing excluded Mark D. as the biological father, his previous acknowledgment of paternity led to legal challenges when he sought to disestablish paternity.

Time Constraints and Estoppel

Timing is critical in contesting paternity. New York imposes strict deadlines for challenging an acknowledgment of paternity—typically within 60 days—and for bringing a paternity case after a child's birth. The doctrine of estoppel can also preclude a challenge if a delay in contesting has resulted in detrimental reliance by the child or mother.

The Impact on Child Support and Custody

If a man successfully contests paternity, he may be relieved from future child support obligations. However, past payments made under an incorrect assumption of paternity are not typically reimbursed. Additionally, custody arrangements may need to be revisited if paternity is disproved.

Conclusion

Contesting paternity involves navigating legal complexities and emotional challenges. It's essential for individuals seeking to challenge or defend against a contestation to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide them through each step of this sensitive process.