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New York Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

New York child custody laws for unmarried parents attempt to protect the best interests of the child and the parental rights of both parties. Unmarried parents have many of the same rights as married parents. They can claim support, visitation, and custody.

However, there are some issues that tend to arise in cases involving unmarried parents more frequently than cases involving married parents. For example, paternity is more frequently an issue in cases involving New York child custody laws for unmarried parents. The processes for bringing the child to court and making or enforcing an order for physical custody of the child are also more commonly involved in such cases.

Children of unmarried parents have a right to access to either parent's health insurance and other benefits as well as financial support. As with children born in marriages, the amount of the child support is determined based upon the parent's respective financial situations and the best interests of the child.

Overview of New York Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

The following chart provides some basic information relating to issues involved in New York child custody laws for unmarried parents:


New York Domestic Relations Law Section 70

Establishing Paternity


The identity of a child's mother is generally not at issue. Establishing paternity involves one of two methods:

  1. The putative father signs a voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form; or
  2. The court is petitioned to determine paternity.

Upon petition, the court will order genetic testing to definitively establish paternity. If the man is shown to be the biological father, the court will issue an order of filiation, establishing their status as the legal father.

Habeas Corpus

Either parent can apply to the court for a writ of habeas corpus to have a child brought into the court for a determination of guardianship and custody, which is determined based on the best interests of the child.


After a child custody determination is made by examining the circumstances of both parents and the best interests of the child the parent awarded custody may need to seek enforcement of the order.

The habeas corpus rights previously discussed are generally used to enforce the court's order, but if there is an imminent danger to the child or if there is a risk that they will be removed from the state the parent can file an application for the issuance of a warrant to take physical custody of the child. This warrant must:

  • Recite the facts upon which a conclusion of imminent serious physical harm or removal from the jurisdiction is based;
  • Direct law enforcement officers to take physical custody of the child immediately and deliver the child to the petitioner; and
  • Provide for the placement of the child pending final relief.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources:

If you would like to learn more about New York custody laws for unmarried parents the following links provide additional information:

Get Help With Your Custody Case From a New York Attorney

Child custody battles are notoriously difficult and emotional, typically benefiting from outside counsel. Having a qualified lawyer assist can help ensure that the outcome of custody proceedings is fair to you, regardless of your marital status. Get started today and find a New York child custody attorney near you.

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