Establishing paternity in New York: What's the process?

Understanding Paternity Establishment in New York

Establishing paternity is a significant legal step for unwed parents in New York. It involves determining the legal father of a child, which can have far-reaching implications for child support, custody, visitation rights, and inheritance. In the state of New York, there are several methods to establish paternity, each with its own legal process.

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity

The simplest and most straightforward method of establishing paternity is through a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP). This process involves both parents signing a form at the hospital immediately following the child's birth or at a later date at a local birth registrar or child support office. By signing this form, the father acknowledges paternity, and his name is added to the child's birth certificate.

Paternity Petition in Family Court

If there is any doubt or dispute about paternity, either parent may file a Petition for an Order of Filiation in Family Court. The court can then order DNA testing to determine paternity. If the genetic tests confirm that the man is the biological father, the court will issue an Order of Filiation, legally establishing him as the father.

Child Support Proceedings

Another avenue for establishing paternity arises during child support proceedings. If a mother seeks child support from an alleged father who has not been legally recognized as the father, paternity must be established first. This is often resolved through DNA testing ordered by the court.

Challenges and Considerations

It's important to note that establishing paternity can be challenged if there is evidence that the VAP was signed under fraud or duress. Additionally, there are time limits for challenging paternity after it has been acknowledged or adjudicated.

An example of a historical case that demonstrates the importance of establishing paternity is the landmark ruling in Levy v. Louisiana (1968), where the U.S. Supreme Court held that children born out of wedlock could not be denied equal protection under the law. This case set a precedent for the rights of children to seek support regardless of their parents' marital status.


In summary, establishing paternity in New York requires navigating various legal pathways depending on individual circumstances. Whether through voluntary acknowledgment or court proceedings, it's essential to understand each method's requirements and implications. Establishing paternity ensures that children receive their rightful benefits and maintains both parents' rights and responsibilities.