The birth of a child should be a joyful event in a man’s life, but if he is not married to the mother, there are some legal hoops he must jump through to be considered the infant’s legal father in New York.

As the New York State Unified Court System’s website explains, when a child is born to unmarried parents, the biological father is not presumed to be a parent to the baby. To gain legal parent status, the father must do one of two things: sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity, which he usually does at the hospital when the baby is born.

If that does not happen, the mother or the purported father can file a petition in Family Court for an “order of filiation.” For the mother, this may be necessary to obligate the biological father to pay child support. From the father’s perspective, he will not have the right to seek custody or visitation time with the child until he is determined to be the legal father.

After one of the parties files the petition, the court holds a hearing before a Support Magistrate. If the man denies being the father, the Support Magistrate will order a blood or DNA test to determine the likelihood that the man is the biological father. After each party undergoes the necessary tests, they go back to court and hear the results of the test.

If the results suggest the man is the father, he has the chance to acknowledge paternity. If he does, the magistrate enters an order of filiation. If the parties continue to dispute paternity, another hearing will be held. At this third hearing, the parties may testify and present evidence and witnesses to bolster their cases.

After the hearing, the court will either enter the order of filiation or dismiss the petition.

If you are a man involved in a paternity case, you may be seeking to establish your parental rights. Or you may be denying that you are the biological father and trying to avoid paying child support unfairly. Either way, you have the right to have an attorney represent and advise you.