Determining Paternity via DNA and Defining Parental Rights in New Jersey
In line with the old adage “mama’s baby, daddy’s maybe,” fathers must first establish paternity to exercise their parental rights.
Whether you are a long-term unmarried couple with children, in a civil union or domestic partnership, married, or you are considering your options for a divorce, it should be comforting to know that both mothers and fathers share equal rights when it comes to child custody and child support.
There are legal avenues to pursue to establish a father’s legal paternity and beneficially strengthen the bond between the parent and child through visitation rights and financial support or public assistance, where they qualify.
Establishing paternity also gives your child legal rights to inherit from both parents and, if eligible, the right to obtain health insurance, Social Security, or veteran’s benefits upon a parent’s death. It even gives your child access to both families’ medical histories and lineage. For single moms of children born to unmarried parents, this presents an opportunity for the child to cultivate a secure, positive, and loving relationship with both parents, and a sense of belonging, while also reducing the likelihood of parental alienation and emotional problems as the child develops into adulthood.
If you or someone you know is faced with a situation where they believe they may not be the biological father and/or may face legal proceedings to establish paternity, the Law Office of Edward S. Cooper, Esq., has extensive experience helping families across Summit, Scotch Plains, Linden, Elizabeth, and the greater Union County area determine paternity, and understand their parental rights. We will protect your rights, safeguard your assets, help you understand your obligations and how much say you have to make major decisions in the child’s life, and find practical solutions for you and your child’s financial future.
What Constitutes Paternity in New Jersey?
Paternity means legal fatherhood or creating the legal parent-child relationship. In the State of New Jersey, by establishing paternity, a biological father becomes the child’s legal father if he and the mother are unmarried.
When a child is born in wedlock or within 10 months after a divorce or the death of a woman’s husband, it is presumed to be the husband or ex-husband’s child.
To reduce costs, save time and possibly minimize paperwork, parents in New Jersey are encouraged to complete the Certificate of Parentage (COP) form (also called a “Voluntary Acknowledgment”) at the hospital. If, for some reason, a father is not able to fill out the document because of work, military service, or being out of town, the paperwork can be completed at the local registrar, vital records, Department of Health Office, and County Welfare Agency. Though postponing this process is not recommended, paternity can be established until the child’s 23rd birthday.
If, on the other hand, you’re not sure if you are the father, you should not complete the Certificate of Parentage form.
How is Paternity Legally Established in New Jersey?
Being a legal father means rights and responsibilities, such as custody rights, regular visitation, and the right to have a say in decisions affecting the child’s welfare, medical care, and education.
Establishing paternity in New Jersey is how a state agency or the court has decided that an individual is a child’s father. Although this can be established through an agreement between the parents via the completion of a COP form and both parties providing valid identification to the birth certificate coordinator, local registrar’s office, or county welfare agency, some mothers may realize the conception date was off, guessed wrong, or a “father” might have doubts if the child is, in fact, biologically his.
Help! I’ve Signed the Birth Certificate, But I’m Not Sure if I’m The Father.
While most expecting parents feel confident in the presumptive paternity of their child, others may sign the documents establishing paternity out of fear, uncertainty, or family pressure. Fortunately, in New Jersey, if both the father and mother change their minds after signing the Certificate of Parentage at the hospital, county registrar, or welfare office, they have sixty (60) days to cancel the paternity acknowledgment or file for a disestablishment action, “Contested Paternity Action,” or “Affidavit of Denial of Paternity.”
My Wife Cheated. How Can I Challenge the Legal Presumption of Paternity in NJ?
A man who wishes to challenge the legal presumption of paternity in New Jersey must present “clear and convincing” evidence to that fact.
If a DNA test establishes non-paternity, steps can be taken to correct the error and remove the father’s name from a birth certificate if that the named father turns out not to be biologically related to the child.
Who Can File for DNA testing to Establish Paternity in New Jersey?
In cases of financial support, the Child Support Division or guardian on behalf of a child can file for DNA testing to establish paternity. DNA samples can be obtained via blood, oral swabs, or other methods. If a father or mother contests the accuracy of a paternity action, genetic testing may be ordered by a judge.
Contact an Experienced Linden, NJ Paternity Attorney Today
If you have any questions or concerns about paternity as a parent, child, or caregiver, our Linden family attorneys offer highly personalized and dynamic legal solutions for all our clients across New Jersey. Attorney Edward S. Cooper, Esq. takes pride in serving parents from local Union County communities, including Linden, Plainfield, Westfield, Union County, Elizabeth, Scotch Plains, and Northern New Jersey.
Our compassionate paternity and parental rights attorneys know parentage and paternity are sensitive issues for our clients. Achieving a successful petition for paternity can put open questions to rest, help families get closure in the case of a loved one who has passed and possibly left a young child behind, and give couples the best chances to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities as parents. Attorney Cooper is passionate about client service and makes returning phone calls, emails, and other inquiries his top priority. Our firm believes in keeping our clients involved and informed throughout the legal process, particularly when the issues are as important as determining child support, child custody, parenting time, and visitation agreements.
Contact us online or through our Linden offices at (908) 481-4625 today to discuss your paternity, family law needs or concerns, in a confidential consultation via your smartphone, tablet, or computer.