Who’s Your Daddy?

I have had men in my office from ages 18 to 80 crying crocodile tears over their shock and displeasure of finding out that they will be a father. As this is a family publication, I will not go through the obvious ways to insure that fatherhood does not occur. If you are on either side of this predicament, the following are things to think about:

  1. Acknowledgement of Paternity – New York State has come up with a very civilized way to accept paternity, which can be done as early as at the time of the child’s birth. An Acknowledgement of Paternity form[1] can be filled out at the time of the child’s birth. This should only be signed by someone who has no doubt that he is the biological father. By signing this form, the father takes on all the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood, including custodial rights and support obligations.
  1. The Mother is Married (to someone else) – If the mother is legally married, even if she has been legally separated and lived away from her husband for many years, he is still considered the “presumptive” father. This means that if you want bio dad determined, a paternity action must be brought in court against the biological father and the husband! While most husbands in this situation will make it very clear that they cannot be the biological father, if the husband does not consent, then DNA testing will occur.
  1. Support- Once a father is determined; he can be responsible for the reasonable expenses of the mother’s confinement and recovery in connection with her pregnancy, as well as support for the child to age 21 including a share of health insurance, medical, childcare, and educational expenses.
  1. Defenses – Fathers have often complained to me that representations were made to them so that an unplanned pregnancy would not occur. As we all learned in health class, even under the best of circumstances, nothing is 100%. Whether you were told this truthfully or not, a child will not suffer from a mother’s misrepresentation. For my female readers, if you want a child keep in mind that your rights are no greater than Dad’s, and you now have a lifetime of co-parenting with this person.
  1. What if someone has acted as the father and the biological father now comes along? – Sometimes, whether knowingly or not, a non-biological father may be raising someone else’s child. The biological father now comes along and wants to be declared the father. These are often very heartbreaking stories for both dads, as well as the child. The court can decide that a biological father may be barred from asserting his rights for many reasons, including that he had knowledge of the situation and did not raise it early enough.

The issues of paternity are complicated emotionally, financially, legally, and scientifically, and should be addressed as early as possible with a qualified attorney.

[1]Public Health Law §4135-b and Family Court Act §516-a

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