City performs DNA tests to establish paternity
The city’s Human Resources Administration does DNA testing to settle the question of whether a particular man has fathered a child. That little-known function of the agency was revealed by a representative who came to Bay Ridge Monday night to discuss the types of surprising services available to parents struggling to raise children.
John S. Cnapich, director of paternity and outreach for the Human Resources Administration’s (HRA) Office of Child Support Enforcement, said much of what his office does is largely unknown to the public.
Speaking at a Community Board 10 meeting, Cnapich said “many people don’t know the office exists,” but added that his office does its best to ensure that children from broken homes are being properly cared for by their parents. The main office is located in Manhattan, and there is also a Brooklyn office at One Metrotech Center.
Part of the office’s mission to make sure court-ordered child support payments are being made by the non-custodial parent. If a non-custodial parent fails to make the payments, and the ex-spouse and child are suffering because of it, the office can step in. The individual’s workplace wages can be garnished and their driver’s licenses or passports can be suspended, Cnapich said. “We handle the collection service through our agency,” he told the community board.
The services are available to all parents, regardless of income. Cnapich said non-compliant parents come in all stripes and from all rungs of the economic ladder. “We’ve had doctors, lawyers go through court because they did not pay child support,” he said.
The office can also perform a DNA test if a couple is arguing over paternity. The tests typically cost $120 – $40 each for the mother, father and baby. The test is simple — just a swap of the inside the mouth — and is painless. The samples are sent to a lab and the results come back approximately two weeks later.
Cnapish recommended that individuals establish paternity early on in a child’s life because it can prevent a lot of headaches.
Many young men make the mistake of signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form in the hospital before it has been clearly established that he is indeed the father of the child. The document is considered to be an acknowledgement that the man is the legally child’s father. “A lot of young men sign the document without knowing what it is,” Cnapich said.
A hasty decision to sign the AOP form could have major consequences later in life, according to Cnapich.
If, for example, a DNA test is done years down the road and it proves that the man wasn’t the child’s father after all, the man is still obligated by New York State law to support the child financially until the child is 21.
“In New York State, once paternity has been established, that’s it. And if it turns out years later that you are not the father, it’s too late. You are in for the ride,” Cnapich said.
The office also works to resolve issues between parents. Mediation services are provided. “We try to be helpful. We let people iron their differences out,” Cnapich said.