Paternity Case

In New York State a paternity case is brought in Family Court for an Order of Filiation. An Order of Filiation is a court order that names a man as the father of a child and gives him the right to custody of the child, the right to visitation with the child, and the responsibility of paying child support.


Who Can Start the Case

The following people can start a paternity case:

  • the child's mother
  • a man who believes he is the father
  • the child or child's guardian
  • the Department of Social Services if the child is gets public assistance

The person who starts the case is called the "Petitioner." The case is against the "Respondent".


Starting a Paternity Case

A paternity petition can be filed in the Family Court in the county where the Petitioner or Respondent lives. There is no filing fee in Family Court.

If you are the mother or a man who believes he is the father, you can use the free and easy Paternity Petition DIY Form program to ask the Family Court for an Order of Filiation naming the child's legal father.

If you are not the child's parents, you can use this form to start your paternity case.

After the paternity petition has been filed in Family Court, the Respondent will be "served" (delivered) a summons and a copy of the petition. A summons tells the Petitioner and the Respondent when and where to come Family Court.

Both the Petitioner and the Respondent have the right to hire their own lawyers. If a party can't afford to hire a lawyer, the court may assign one at no no cost.


The Paternity Hearing

A paternity case is heard in front of a Judge or a Support Magistrate.

The Order of Filiation can be signed "on consent" if:

  • the mother was not married when the child was conceived or born and both the mother and father agree that the man is the father, or
  • the mother was married and all three parties (the mother, the husband, and the biological father) agree

When an Order of Filiation is signed on consent, it means that both the mother and the father agree that the father really is the child's biological father and neither of the parents are asking for a DNA test to prove it.

If anyone disagrees on who the biological father is, the Court may order a DNA test on the mother, possible father, and child and the case is heard on another date. On the next court date, the Court will explain the test results.

If, after learning the DNA results, both sides agree on paternity, the Court enters an Order of Filiation.

If the sides don't agree on the DNA results, the case is postponed until a later date. On the next court date, both sides can testify and have witnesses. Usually, it is up to the Petitioner to prove paternity, However, if the DNA test results say that there is a 95% likelihood that that Respondent is the father then it is up to the Respondent to prove that he is not the father. After the Judge hears both sides, the court will determine if the Respondent is the biological father.


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