Family Law: Frequently Asked Questions

How is paternity established?

To establish paternity means to identify the biological father of a child, legally declare fatherhood, and accept a number of responsibilities and rights. When parents are married, the name of the father listed on the birth certificate is presumed to be the father without any further testing. Unmarried parents may sign an “acknowledgement of paternity” or petition to have paternity established in a family court. The court can order blood or DNA tests to determine whether or not a man presumed to be the child’s father is, in fact, the biological father. If the test comes back positive, the father must accept responsibility; if not, the case against him will be dismissed.

What rights do children have regarding paternity?

Children have the right to know who their parents are, and fathers, like mothers, have a responsibility to care for and support their children. Whether parents are married or not, this responsibility still stands.

Establishing paternity allows the child to receive child support, Veteran’s or Social Security benefits on behalf of their father if he is disabled or dies, and a share of the father’s estate. Additionally, it can provide the child with more complete knowledge of their family’s medical history and can ensure they receive proper medical treatment and preventive care.

How does paternity affect my visitation, custody, and support rights?

When a child is born outside of a marriage, the father must sign an “acknowledgement of paternity” form to declare his responsibility to his child and to avoid determining paternity in court in the future. Without acknowledging paternity, he will forfeit his right to seek custody or visitation of the child. Additionally, mothers will not be able to receive support payments without establishing paternity.

What is domestic violence? What do I do if I am accused of abuse?

The state of New York defines domestic violence as physical or psychological abuse that occurs between family members, including people who are or were married, engaged, or living together, or who are related by blood, adoption, marriage, or have had a child together. Domestic violence can include harassing telephone calls, threats, stalking, emotional abuse, and other threatening forms of control and dominance. Claims of domestic violence in New York can be handled in Criminal Court, Family Court, or both.

If you have been accused of abuse and wish to fight your charges, remember that an allegation does not necessarily equal proof. Seek the help of an experienced family law attorney from Wisselman & Associates to represent you as soon as possible. An attorney from our firm can help gather evidence that will support your case and could protect you against jail time and fines.

What options are available to protect me or my child against abuse?

Orders of protection can be obtained by those who feel threatened by, or are the victims of, domestic violence. These orders can prohibit the accused from threatening, attacking, striking, battering, telephoning, or otherwise disturbing the peace of the person requesting protection. Violators may be subject to jail time.

Domestic violence victims may also wish to consider other options, including leaving the area, staying with a friend or family member, having a friend of family member stay with them, or going to a shelter. Do not hesitate to contact law enforcement if you fear for your safety or that of your child.

How does the adoption process work?

Adoptions can be completed privately or through an agency. All adoptions, whether interstate or international, require review and approval from the court. The adoption process includes completion of a petition, a personal interview, medical examination, police record checks, child abuse registry checks, and a home study. The Department of Social Services creates a report based on these prerequisites. The court will then use this report to determine if an adoption is in the child’s best interests.

What are the different types of adoption?

There are many different types of adoption, including interstate adoption, international adoption, stepparent adoption, agency adoption, and private placement adoption, all of which have different legal procedures, fees, and requirements.

In closed adoptions, there is no communication between the biological parents and the adoptive parents. Likewise, an open adoption indicates that the biological and adoptive parents are aware of each other’s identities. Interstate adoptions take place in a different state than where the birth parents reside, and international adoptions involve parents in different countries. An attorney can help you with a private placement adoption, in which parents can relinquish their rights to the adoptive parents without using an adoption agency.