The issue of paternity may arise in a child custody dispute or if a mother or alleged father contests the paternity of a newborn child. Because a paternity determination has a significant legal and social impact on both the parents and the child, it is essential to understand New Jersey’s laws and procedures in these types of cases.
Whether you wish to confirm yourself as your child’s legal father so that you may seek custody or visitation, or you have been named as a child’s father but do not believe you are, an experienced attorney could help. At the Williams Law Group, LLC, a Montclair paternity lawyer could also assist a mother if the man she has identified as the father challenges paternity.
Many people consider paternity to be solely a determination of a child’s biological parent. However, paternity is a term used to identify a child’s legal father. A man does not have to be a child’s birth father to be their legal father.
Under New Jersey law (CITE), both parties are presumed to be the child’s legal parents when a child is born to a married couple. If neither spouse challenges this presumption, the husband will continue to be the child’s legal father, regardless of whether he is the biological father. If a child is born to an unmarried couple, paternity must be established through a legal process.
Under New Jersey Statues §9:17-41, a man may legally acknowledge that he is the father of a child by signing a Certificate of Parentage, also known as a Voluntary Acknowledgment, at the hospital after the child’s birth. The mother and father may also complete and sign the certificate at the local Registrar’s or New Jersey’s Office of Vital Statistics and Registry.
Because both parents sign the certificate acknowledging that they are the child’s parents, it may be difficult to challenge paternity later. The parties may submit to a DNA test to confirm the man’s paternity before signing the certificate. Parents may benefit from speaking with a knowledgeable paternity lawyer in the area if they are uncertain about the process.
If the mother has identified a man as her child’s father and he denies paternity, either party may file a petition to establish paternity in a New Jersey Superior Court. Additionally, the child may ask a court to establish paternity at any time during their life. The child’s legal guardian or the local welfare agency, if the child is receiving state assistance, can file a paternity action any time before the child’s 23rd birthday.
If paternity is challenged, a judge may order the alleged father to submit to genetic testing. If the DNA test shows the man is 95% or more likely the biological father, he is presumed to be the legal parent. Because other evidence to confirm or dispute a paternity determination may be presented, parties in a contested case should consider obtaining legal representation from a Montclair attorney.
Determining a child’s father can significantly impact the rights of both parents and the child. Some of these rights include:
New Jersey law strongly supports both parents’ involvement in the child’s life. Once paternity is established, both parties should be prepared to assume parenting responsibilities for the child. A skilled paternity attorney could help a Montclair parent establish a custodial arrangement that best meets the child’s needs.
Establishing paternity can be important to a child for many reasons, including knowing the medical history of the father and his family. A paternity determination is also significant to both parents as it creates certain rights to custody, visitation, and child support.
If you seek to establish or challenge paternity, a Montclair paternity lawyer could help you navigate the New Jersey system. The experienced legal team at the Williams Law Group, LLC can also assist you with any custody or child support issues that may arise after paternity is confirmed. Give us a call today and schedule a consultation to learn more about your rights.