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What rights do unmarried dads have over their child's paternity?

Traditionally, fathers who were not married to the mothers of their children have had fewer rights concerning their children. However, this has changed a great deal over the last decade or so. Below are some of the legal rights of unmarried New York dads.

There is no legal definition listed in the statutes for the term "father." However, the state Department of Social Services provides a "putative father registry" with addresses and names of the following:

-- All those adjudicated by the New York courts as the father of children born outside of marriage.

-- Those who filed with the registry, either prior to or after the baby being born out-of-wedlock, their notice of intent to claim paternity of the baby.

-- All those who were adjudicated by another state's (or territory's) court in the United States to have fathered babies out-of-wedlock. A certified copy of the court's order must be on file with the registry.

-- Those who have filed an acknowledgement of paternity with the registrar. If the notice of intent remains unrevoked, any individual but the filer of the notice can use it as evidence in relevant court proceedings.

Prior to a baby's birth to an unmarried mother, a hospital administrator will give the mother and putative father, if he can be identified and is available, the necessary documents and instructions necessary to fill out the acknowledgment of paternity. It will then be witnessed by two people who are not related to the one signing the acknowledgement and then filed together with the birth certificate at the registrar's office. It may also be filed separately at a later date.

A man who files a notice of intent or acknowledgment of paternity must include his address and notify the registrar of changes of address. Notices of intent to claim paternity can be revoked, and when the revocation is received by the registrar, they shall be nullified and voided.

A family law attorney is a good source of information and assistance when seeking to establish paternity for a child.

Source: childwelfare.gov, "The Rights of Unmarried Fathers," accessed April. 17, 2015

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