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What could be a more fundamental question than who is the father of any child? Beyond the value of the emotional and health consequences of a child’s access to family medical histories and genetic information, there are financial consequences to establishment of paternity that dramatically affect a child and his or her parents for at least twenty-one years.

While every child has a biological father and scientific advances have increased the accuracy of biological determinations, procedures are required to compel someone to submit to these tests.

Paternity can be established by the execution of a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity form or a court can make the determination. Compounding these issues are the ever-changing frontiers being created due to surrogate parenting and in vitro fertilization.

New York utilizes a rebuttable marital presumption. Thus, a husband is presumed to be the father of a child conceived during a marriage. He can, however, be relieved of this responsibility by direct, clear and convincing evidence.

Determination of a child’s paternity enables a father to seek custody or visitation with his child, a mother to seek financial contribution to the support and care of a child and for a child to obtain financial benefits such as Social Security, life insurance, veteran’s benefits, military allowances, worker’s compensation benefits, trust benefits and inheritance.

Determination of a child’s paternity can possibly open the door to ensuring grandparents have access to their grandchild. In New York, grandparents can seek visitation with a grandchild in two different situations. One, is when a grandparent’s child is deceased and the second, is “where circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene.”   Thus, it is critical for grandparents that their children’s paternity over their beloved grandchild is established as promptly as possible.

Handling a paternity situation properly is essential for not only a child and his or her parents, but for their extended family as well. As soon as the issue arises for you or anyone you love, it is essential that you obtain experienced counsel who can handle the matter professionally and discreetly.