In any New York State legal dispute, you likely will be able to bring your case to court to protect your rights or seek compensation for damages. However, most court proceedings have a particular procedure, and family court cases are no exception. For example, if you are struggling to gain custody of your child, you will have a slim chance of succeeding if you miss an important filing before the deadline.

The birth father of a Utah child has lost his appeal of a lower court decision granting custody to the now-3-year-old’s adoptive parents. That state’s Supreme Court ruled that the father lost his right to contest the adoption on procedural grounds.

Specifically, the court found that he did not properly file a paternity affidavit in the time required by law. The man attempted to file the affidavit two weeks before the child was born, but it was unsigned and unverified.

A week later, he filed notice to initiate paternity proceedings. But state law also required him to file a sworn affidavit that he was also seeking child custody and would pay child support. He and his attorney did not file the affidavit until after the child was born.

In addition, the paternity petition lacked the father’s signature under oath. That was a “matter of substantial legal significance,” according to the court’s ruling.

Even if you have a strong case for shared or sole custody of your child, you petition will probably not survive if you fail to follow procedure. The best way to make sure the court hears your case on its merits is to hire an experienced family law attorney.