When a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, the biological father is not considered the child’s legal parent unless the father has signed an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” (usually done at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth) declaring himself to be the child’s father, or an “order of filiation” has been entered, which is a court order that declares that person to be the legal father. A petition may be filed in Staten island Family Court seeking an order of filiation.
If a man was not married to the mother of the child, he has no obligation to pay support for the child, and has no legal right to custody or visitation with the child, unless he is legally named the father of the child, through an order of filiation or an acknowledgment of paternity.
The petition may be filed by the child’s mother, by a man who believes he is the father of the child, by the child or by the child’s guardian. If the child is receiving public assistance, the Department of Social Services may file a petition against the alleged father, seeking an order of filiation and an order of support.
The petition and a summons must be served upon (delivered to) the respondent.
There are no filing fees in Staten Island Family Court.
If the mother was married at the time the child was conceived or born, her husband is considered to be the legal father of the child, even though he might not be the biological father, unless a court decides that he is not the father. A copy of the paternity petition must be served upon the husband to notify him about the court case. After he is served, a judge may make a ruling concerning his relationship to the child. If the judge decides that the husband is not the father, the paternity case against the other alleged father may continue.
The petitioner should present a copy of the child’s birth certificate.
Initially, the parties appear before a Support Magistrate. If the mother was not married when the child was conceived or born, and the respondent admits that he is the father, the hearing examiner enters an order of filiation. If the respondent denies that he is the father, the Support Magistrate will order blood or DNA tests of both parties and the child and adjourn the case to another date. The parties are given an appointment date for the laboratory tests.
When the parties return to court, the test results are explained by the court. The blood or DNA tests may exclude the man as the biological father, or may show how probable it is that he is the father. If the respondent admits paternity, an order of filiation is entered. If the parties cannot agree on paternity, the matter is then scheduled for a hearing. Both parties may testify and present witnesses and the blood or DNA test results may be offered in evidence. If the petitioner presents sufficient proof, the court will enter an order of filiation; if not, the petition will be dismissed.
After paternity has been decided, if the custodial parent seeks an order of child support, or is receiving public assistance for the child, the Magistrate will conduct a support hearing.
The parties may represent themselves or may hire lawyers. A respondent who is indigent and cannot afford to hire a lawyer has the right to have a lawyer assigned at no cost. Even if you are unsure about whether to hire an attorney to represent you in Staten Island Family Court, why not protect yourself by making an appointment for a confidential 30 minute consultation with an experienced Family Court attorney at our law firm – the cost is only $150!