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The Rights of Unmarried Parents


Fewer and fewer people are deciding to get married before having kids. Usually, this lack of legal formality doesn’t create a problem until a legal question comes up. For example, unmarried parents don’t have the same parental rights as married parents unless they are both on the birth certificate of the child.

For instance, the state of New York automatically makes the assumption that the child of a heterosexual married couple was the product of the marriage. Both the mother’s and the father’s name are put on the birth certificate, which can later be used in a divorce proceeding if they then decide to separate. However, unmarried parents have to jump through extra hoops before they can establish parentage with the state.

While the identity of a child’s mother is not usually an issue, establishing paternity is necessary if the mother later wants to collect child support from the father or if the father later wants child custody or visitation when the couple splits.

After the birth of a child, the parents can sign a voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form and submit it to the court to declare the child’s paternity. This form, once filed, creates a legal bond between the father and the child, and he has access to all legal rights as a parent even if he and the mother separate.

However, if one of the parents refuses to sign the paternity form, the court will need to intervene. The parent who wishes to establish paternity can petition the court to order genetic testing. Once a genetic link between the parent and child is determined, a judge will issue an order of filiation, establishing that person as the legal parent.

If you’re interested in establishing the paternity of your child to obtain child support or child custody and visitation rights, let us help. Our skilled Dutchess County family law attorneys are dedicated to providing experienced legal representation with compassion and excellent communication. Let us see what we can do for you and your family.

Contact us at (845) 605-4330 or fill out our online form to schedule a case consultation today.