The process for seeking custody as an unmarried parent is similar to that of seeking custody as a married parent. But there are a few essential differences that require a little more legwork.
Your first step as an unmarried parent seeking custody is establishing your legal relationship with your child. If you are the child’s mother, the court will presume the legal relationship. But if you are the father, you may need to establish paternity.
Typically, both parents must attend a consent conference before bringing a custody and child support matter before the court. At the consent conference, the father can acknowledge paternity. Once he acknowledges paternity, the court can enter a Judgment of Paternity. Once the court enters this Judgment, a custody order can be issued.
To protect your rights as an unmarried parent, you should obtain a custody order from the court. A custody order is a legally enforceable order that ensures your custodial rights are protected. If you have visitation instead of custody, a custody order with a parenting time schedule can ensure your right to spend time with your child is secured.
Once you establish paternity, you can petition the family court for custody. Typically, you will file for custody with the family court in the county where your child lives. The court may refer you to custody mediation wherein you and the other parent will try to reach an agreement. If you cannot agree on custody or parenting time, the court will have to decide.
Before you file for custody, you should decide what type of custody you want: physical custody or legal custody. You can also file for both. You can also share both these types of custody with the other parent. If you have physical custody, your child will live with you. If you only have legal custody, you can make decisions about your child, and, typically, visitation time.
The legal standard in New Jersey custody cases, with both divorcing and unmarried parents, is the best interests of the child. This means the court will issue a custody order that best meets the child’s needs and is best for their well-being.
Typically, courts presume that the child will benefit from involvement from both parents. But if you’re an unmarried parent seeking custody, you can face difficulty if the other parent challenges that assumption. This is why working with a New Jersey child custody attorney can give you a better chance at getting the outcome you want. An attorney can help you make a strong case for custody and fight any challenges from the other parent.
Are you fighting for child custody? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help. Our skilled attorneys can advise you of your rights and help you obtain the custody outcome you want. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.