The family court system in New Jersey protects children’s best interests, but that does not mean it is easy for families to navigate. For a father to claim his child support and custody rights, he must first prove paternity. This can be difficult if there was no marriage between the parents or if they were not married at the time of the birth. A court-ordered paternity test can provide proof of paternity, so fathers can use their full legal rights as parents to offer child support and gain child custody.
What is Legally Established Paternity?
In New Jersey, paternity can be established in several ways:
Paternity for Married Couples
If a child is born during a marriage, the husband will be considered the father. This applies if the child is born up to 10 months after the mother becomes divorced from the father or the father passes away.
Judge of Paternity or Judgement of Adoption
A court can file a Judgement of Paternity or a Judgement of Adoption that proclaims an individual is recognized as the child’s father.
Certificate of Parentage
A Certificate of Parentage (COP) declares the father as a biological father if the parents are unmarried at the time of the birth. You can obtain this document from the county welfare office or a local registrar until the child turns 23. If the father does not revoke the document within 60 days of filing, it is legally binding.
A paternity action can be filed in the New Jersey Family Courts to establish paternity. In New Jersey, parents, legal guardians, legal representatives, and welfare agencies can file a petition to establish paternity. Sometimes, parents may agree to the legal establishment of paternity without DNA testing.
Considerations for Establishing Paternity
The legal establishment of paternity can be challenged by the mother, child, or another man who believes they may be the father. Genetic testing is needed to establish child custody and support rights and must be completed before the child turns 23.
The court may require that the child and all parties take DNA tests to determine whether a presumed father is a biological father. The parties and the child must provide DNA samples to determine paternity if court-ordered. A judge can use a party’s refusal as evidence to submit to a court-ordered paternity test.
Judges may examine some of the following factors and will consider the best interests of the child before ordering a DNA test:
- The time between the paternity proceedings and the presumed or acknowledged father to be informed that he might not be the father
- If the father acts as a parent to the child in a practical sense
- The age of the child
- The extent, if any, to which uncertainty of parentage exists in the child’s mind
Whenever DNA tests are requested, both parents and children must be considered to avoid any disruption of family ties because of establishing paternity in court.
Lyons & Associates P.C. Can Help with Establishing Paternity
Our family law attorneys know the complexities and legal issues that may arise from establishing paternity. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Lyons & Associates P.C. can help you understand the legal responsibilities of court-ordered paternity tests. If you would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact us online today.