Unwed fathers in New York generally have the same rights as married ones do. However, they must be sure to establish paternity so that they can assert them. How difficult it is for a father to establish paternity usually depends on how amicable his relationship is with his child's mother.
When parents are in a committed relationship
It's very common for unmarried parents to be in a committed relationship when their child is born. In these cases, establishing paternity is easy and custody is not an issue. All the father has to do is make sure that his name is entered onto his child's birth certificate.
If the father's name isn't entered onto the birth certificate for some reason, there is another easy option for establishing paternity. The unwed father simply needs to submit a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. As long as the mother does not contest the father's paternity form, he can enjoy his fathers' rights.
When parents are not on speaking terms
Unfortunately, establishing paternity can be more difficult when parents aren't getting along. If the mother does not want to acknowledge the father of her child, the father may have to petition the court and take a paternity test. Once fatherhood has been proven, the unwed father will generally have the same rights as any other father.
Petitioning the court for custody rights
When parents are no longer living together, it will be important for the father to get a court order for child custody. Any unspoken agreement that parents have about the issue isn't the same as a court order. An unwed father should make sure to get a legal agreement in place so that he can assert his rights as a parent if the mother's attitude toward him changes.