First Steps: Determining Custody of Unborn Children

Establishing Custody Early On

First Steps: Determining Custody of Unborn Children

A custody order grants parents certain legal rights. Without a custody order, unmarried parents do not have the legal protections they deserve and have little recourse if the other parent interferes with parenting. Today, many parents are unmarried when they have children, but custody and parenting time orders work to provide structure for parenting so they can make it work. Any parent can seek a custody order for his or her child. New Jersey courts, however, do not make decisions regarding the custody of unborn children. Parentage can be legally established before a child is born, but custody—pertaining to the legal rights of the parents—cannot be addressed.

Before the Child Is Born

Parentage needs to be determined before the court can issue a custody order. Establishing parentage of a child as soon as it is born eliminates a step that needs to be taken to establish custody. Parents can establish parentage at the hospital when the baby is born. The mother is presumed as a parent, but if the couple is unmarried, the father will need to take extra steps to establish his parentage. The father can fill out a certificate of parentage, voluntarily claiming parentage, at the hospital. He may also complete it at a later date, but it may involve more legwork and a small fee. If the father is not sure of his parentage, a DNA test can be done to confirm or deny the parentage.

The Next Step

Once the baby is born, and parentage is established, the parents can then seek a custody order from the court. When parents agree on the terms of custody and parenting time, getting an order issued can be relatively simple. When parents disagree, however, the process can be difficult as the judge will need to decide for them. The judge will consider a number of factors when deciding custody including the needs of the child, which parent can best meet those needs, and the preferences of the parents.

Seek Help Before Seeking Custody

If you are seeking custody of your child, consult with a knowledgeable New Jersey child custody attorney about the process. An attorney can explain the process for seeking custody in New Jersey and help you take steps to increase your chance of getting a custody order in your favor. The judge has to consider many factors before making a decision. It is not uncommon for parents who sought custody to be disappointed with the judge’s decision. Thus, it’s wise to first speak with an attorney before seeking custody to make sure you are optimizing your chance of getting the outcome you want.

If you are looking child custody help in New Jersey, the Williams Law Group, LLC can assist you. Our skilled child custody attorneys will defend your rights every step of the way. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.


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