Navigating a Custody Action as an Unmarried Parent

Who Are the Parents?


For custody to be determined, the parents of the child must be identified. While maternity is established easily enough, legal fatherhood, also called paternity, sometimes requires a few extra steps. Establishing paternity can be done in a few ways. When two parents are married when a child is born, paternity is self-evident. Unless challenged, the husband is assumed to be the father of the child. When two parents are unmarried, however, paternity must be formally established for custody to be determined.

Finding the Father

Establishing paternity allows an unmarried parent to ask the court to determine custody and order child support. It also protects the child’s rights to certain benefits, such as insurance or inheritance. The first step in a custody action between two unmarried parents is formally establishing paternity. If a father wishes, he can sign a voluntary acknowledgment, the Certificate of Parentage, that serves as a legal recognition he is the child’s father. A father can do this in the hospital when the child is born or complete it at a later date.

If the father does not admit paternity, genetic testing must be done. Genetic testing can be done at either parent’s request, or it can be court ordered. A 95% or above genetic match will establish paternity and create a legal relationship between the father and child. If the father won’t voluntarily acknowledge paternity and refuses to submit to genetic testing, you will have to involve the court so genetic testing can be ordered. Once paternity is established, you can ask for a custody determination and child support. The non-custodial parent can then ask for parenting time.

It is very important to establish paternity for your child. If you need assistance, speak with an experienced New Jersey child custody attorney about the steps you need to take. If you need to involve the court to get genetic testing ordered, you may need help. Identifying the legal father of your child will allow you to get a custody award and child support order. These can ensure the father’s parental rights are protected and your child can benefit from having two legal parents.


Navigating a custody action can be difficult, but the knowledgeable attorneys at the Williams Law Group, LLC have the experience needed to defend your rights as an unmarried parent and seek a custody award that is in your child’s best interests. Located in Union, 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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