Establishing paternity is an important step in determining legal rights and obligations towards a child. In New York, the law presumes that a husband is the legal father of a child born during his marriage. This presumption is based on the legal concept of “presumption of legitimacy,” which assumes that children born during a marriage are the biological offspring of the husband. This presumption can only be rebutted through a legal challenge, which typically involves genetic testing to establish paternity. Matter of Chang v. Vasquez highlights the importance of establishing paternity and the role of genetic testing in resolving paternity disputes.
Zheng Chang and Marina Vasquez had an extramarital affair while Marina was still married to Luis Vasquez. During the affair, Marina became pregnant and gave birth to a child. Luis, believing that he was the child’s biological father, signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity shortly after the child’s birth.
However, Zheng, who had doubts about the child’s paternity, filed a paternity petition seeking to establish himself as the biological father of the child. He requested genetic testing to determine paternity, which Marina opposed, arguing that it was not in the child’s best interests and that Luis should be presumed to be the child’s legal father.
The trial court denied Zheng’s request for genetic testing, finding that he lacked standing to challenge Luis’s legal paternity. Zheng appealed the decision, arguing that he had a right to seek genetic testing and that the child’s best interests would be served by establishing his paternity.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, agreed with Zheng and reversed the trial court’s decision. The court held that Zheng had standing to seek genetic testing and that the child’s best interests were served by establishing his true paternity.
The court noted that genetic testing is a reliable method of determining paternity, and that it is recognized as such under the Parentage Act. The court also acknowledged that the Parentage Act provides a mechanism for challenging paternity, and that the request for genetic testing in this case was a legitimate means of seeking to establish or challenge paternity.
The court also rejected Marina’s argument that Luis should be presumed to be the child’s legal father, noting that the presumption of legitimacy could be overcome by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. The court found that Zheng had presented such evidence, including his relationship with Marina during the relevant time period and the fact that Luis was not present at the child’s birth.
Ultimately, the court ordered genetic testing to determine paternity and directed the trial court to issue a new order reflecting the results. The case highlights the importance of establishing paternity in cases where there is doubt about the child’s biological father, and underscores the role of genetic testing in resolving such disputes.
The court noted that genetic testing would not change the fact that Luis Vasquez had played a significant role in the child’s life, but it would provide important information about the child’s medical history and allow for appropriate financial support.
Establishing legal paternity is crucial in determining parental rights and responsibilities towards a child. Paternity disputes often arise when the biological father’s identity is in question. Genetic testing is a reliable method to determine paternity and helps in resolving paternity disputes. Matter of Chang v. Vasquez highlights the importance of establishing paternity and the role of genetic testing in resolving such disputes. If you are involved in a paternity dispute, it is crucial to consult with an experienced New York family lawyer who can assist you in navigating through the legal process and protecting your rights, as well as the best interests of your child and who can provide advice and representation in all aspects of paternity disputes, including genetic testing, child support, custody, and visitation rights.