Unmarried Parents’ Rights

When a married couple has a baby, the husband is automatically considered to be the child’s legal father. But if a couple is not married when their baby is born, the couple must establish the child’s paternity. It is crucial that the parents establish their child’s paternity for a few reasons. They are as follows:

  • For the father to seek custody, visitation, and child support for the child. If a man is not his biological child’s legal father, he does not have the right to seek any of these.

  • For the mother to seek child support from the child’s father.

  • For the father to add the child to his insurance policies. This may include his healthcare insurance, his life insurance, or his automobile insurance in the case where the child is of age to drive.

For many families, establishing paternity is also important to the child’s sense of identity. Having an official record of his or her parentage can help him or her understand his or her family history and build bonds between cousins, grandparents, and other relatives in the child’s life.

Once paternity is established, unmarried parents have the same rights to their child that married parents have. The court treats unmarried parents the same way that it treats divorcing parents when determining issues regarding a child such as custody, child support, and visitation rights.

How to Establish Paternity in New Jersey

If a child is not born during a woman’s marriage or within ten months of her divorce, the child’s father must establish his paternity. If he voluntarily acknowledges his paternity, he may establish paternity with a Certificate of Parentage (COP). This document can be signed in the hospital shortly after the baby’s birth or at a state or county registrar’s office. It can also be signed at a local welfare office.

If he does not voluntarily acknowledge his paternity or the mother denies that he is the father, either party may petition to the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court for an Order of Paternity. This may require the alleged father or fathers to undergo genetic testing to establish the child’s paternity. This type of legal action may be taken at any point until the child’s twenty-third birthday.

New Jersey’s Paternity Opportunity Program (POP)

New Jersey’s Paternity Opportunity Program (POP) provides unmarried parents with the resources they need to establish paternity, such as genetic testing. It also provides educational materials about establishing paternity and how to obtain and complete a Certificate of Paternity.

Paternity is an important issue for any unmarried parent. To learn more about your rights to your child and how to establish your paternity, contact The Law Office of Eric B. Hannum Esq., LLC. at 732-370-9596 to discuss these issues during your initial consultation with our firm. We proudly serve parents and families throughout Ocean, Mercer, Burlington, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties.

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