Parental rights are the legal rights you have to your child. They include the right to make decisions for your child and the right to be in your child’s life. They also include the obligation to financially support your child.
Married fathers, according to the New York State website, automatically have parental rights upon the birth of a child. Fathers who are not married to the mother of their child have no rights until they take steps to legally secure them.
You may secure your parental rights by petitioning the court, getting genetic testing and receiving a ruling by the court that you are the legal father. This can be costly but may be necessary if the mother is not willing to admit you are the father or otherwise wishes to block your parental rights.
The other option is to voluntarily sign a form acknowledging paternity. This is only an option if you can get the mother to sign the form as well since it requires both signatures. You may be able to get this form at the hospital at the time of birth. This form states that you assume responsibility for the child and accept that it is your biological child. You should not sign it if there is any doubt that you are the father.
You should establish paternal rights as soon as possible because it gives you some control over the care and raising of your child. It allows you to seek custody orders and to have a say in the child’s life. If the mother were to put the child up for adoption, it also gives you the chance to act.