In the state of New York, establishing paternity is an essential part of protecting the rights of children and parents. Paternity determination determines who the biological father of a child is and helps establish important legal rights such as custody, visitation, and child support. Paternity can be established in New York through several ways:
- Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity: Both parents sign a form called “Acknowledgment of Paternity” in the hospital or at a local child support office. This form is a legal document that establishes the man as the child’s father.
- Court Order: If the parents are not married or the paternity is disputed, either parent can file a petition with the court to establish paternity. The court will order genetic testing to determine paternity.
- Presumption of Paternity: If a child is born during a marriage, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child unless proven otherwise.
Establishing paternity is important because it provides a legal recognition of the father-child relationship, which can have significant legal and emotional implications for both the father and the child. For example, it can establish the father’s rights and responsibilities to provide financial support, make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, and have visitation or custody rights.
One case that involved a challenge to paternity based on newly discovered evidence is Matter of Keisha S. v. Raymond T., 63 A.D.3d 1046 (2d Dep’t 2009). In this case, the putative father challenged a judgment of paternity on the basis of newly discovered evidence that he was not the biological father. The court held that the putative father had shown due diligence in discovering the evidence and granted his petition to vacate the judgment of paternity.
In Matter of Keisha S. v. Raymond T., Keisha S. and Raymond T. had a child together while they were in a relationship. Raymond T. was present at the child’s birth and his name was listed on the child’s birth certificate. A judgment of paternity was entered, and Raymond T. paid child support for several years.
Several years later, Raymond T. became suspicious that he may not be the biological father of the child. He hired a private investigator to conduct a DNA test, which revealed that he was not the biological father. Raymond T. then filed a petition to vacate the judgment of paternity.
In New York, a party seeking to vacate a judgment of paternity must demonstrate due diligence in discovering the newly discovered evidence. The putative father must also show that the newly discovered evidence is of such a nature that it would likely change the outcome of the case.
The court in Matter of Keisha S. v. Raymond T. held that Raymond T. had met the burden of showing due diligence in discovering the newly discovered evidence. The court found that Raymond T. had acted promptly and had not unreasonably delayed in pursuing the matter.
In the context of this case, “due diligence” means that Raymond T took reasonable steps to discover the information that would prove he was not the biological father of the child. The court found that Raymond T had acted with due diligence because he had made repeated attempts to obtain the child’s medical records and DNA test results, and had even hired a private investigator to locate the child’s biological father. The court also noted that Raymond T had promptly filed his petition to vacate the paternity judgment as soon as he discovered the evidence, indicating that he had not delayed or acted in bad faith.
The court also found that the newly discovered evidence was of such a nature that it would likely change the outcome of the case. The DNA test showed conclusively that Raymond T. was not the biological father of the child.
The court’s decision in Matter of Keisha S. v. Raymond T. highlights the importance of establishing paternity and the legal rights that come with it. It is crucial for fathers who suspect they may not be the biological father of a child to take prompt action to protect their legal rights. Failing to act promptly will make it more difficult to get a child support order vacated should paternity testing prove that someone else is the biological father.
It is also important to seek the advice of an experienced New York family law lawyer when dealing with issues of paternity who can help navigate the complex legal process of establishing paternity, as well as help clients understand their legal rights and obligations.