Paternity: Understanding the Legal Process and Your Rights

Establishing paternity, or the legal father of a child, is an important step in ensuring that both the child and father have access to their legal rights and responsibilities. This process can have significant legal, financial, and emotional implications for all parties involved. This article will provide an overview of paternity and the legal considerations involved.

What is Paternity?

Paternity refers to the legal identity of a child’s biological father. Establishing paternity is important because it can impact a variety of legal and financial matters, including child support, custody, and visitation.

Methods of Establishing Paternity

There are several ways to establish paternity. The most common methods include:

  • Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity: This is a simple process in which both parents sign a legal document acknowledging that the man is the biological father of the child. This document is then filed with the state.
  • Genetic Testing: This involves taking a DNA test to determine whether the man is the biological father of the child. The test is usually done through a cheek swab and is very accurate.
  • Court Order: A court can order genetic testing or require a man to take responsibility for a child if he refuses to acknowledge paternity.

Establishing paternity can have significant legal implications for all parties involved. Some of the most important legal considerations include:

  • Child Support: If a man is determined to be the biological father of a child, he may be required to pay child support.
  • Custody and Visitation: Once paternity is established, the father may be able to seek custody or visitation rights.
  • Inheritance: A child who is legally recognized as the biological child of their father may be entitled to inheritance rights.
  • Medical History: Establishing paternity can provide a child with access to their father’s medical history, which can be important for their own healthcare.

Your Rights

If you are seeking to establish paternity, it is important to understand your legal rights. This may include your right to:

  • Seek genetic testing to determine paternity
  • Petition the court for custody or visitation rights
  • Receive child support, if applicable
  • Seek legal advice and representation, if necessary


Establishing paternity is an important legal process that can have significant implications for both the child and father. By understanding the legal considerations involved and working with an experienced attorney, you can help ensure that your rights are protected and that the best interests of the child are served.

Thomas Elliott

Education: Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, New York. Pace University, White Plains, New York.
Professional Associations and Memberships: American Bar Association, New York State Bar, The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Brooklyn Bar Association, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

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