Guidelines For Paying Child Support for a Non-Biological Child in NJ
Many Non-Biological Parents and their partners wonder if they may be obligated to pay child support for a child who is not biologically theirs in New Jersey.
During the divorce process or when dissolving a civil union where children are involved, the family court will determine child support and child custody. Today’s blended families, even among unmarried parents who have been in long-term committed relationships, means there are often non-biological children added to the equation, and when relationships end, many couples are unsure about their legal rights or obligations to children they helped raise but were not biologically related to.
Traditionally, unless a child is officially adopted by a stepparent or has a court order making them a “legal parent,” that individual generally does not have child custody rights or child support obligations.
Financial obligations may vary, so it’s possible that as a result of a marriage, both spouses can potentially bear fiduciary responsibility for the other’s child support obligations, should the biological parent spouse be unable to do so. In addition, if one has provided monetary support in the past for a non-biological child during the course of a marriage or civil union, this may lead to future post-divorce child support obligations.
Providing child support is not automatic, it should be explored with an experienced New Jersey child support lawyer, who can advise you about your financial obligations to stepchildren you are a parental figure to in your current relationship, or answer questions you may have regarding a spouse or ex-spouse who is a stepparent to your children.
If you or a loved one are dealing with a child support matter, The Law Offices of Edward Cooper has decades of expertise to help you navigate sensitive family issues and understand your rights. Determining long or short-term financial obligations for children is complex. Selecting a compassionate attorney who can support you in making positive decisions in the best interest of a child you helped raise, can be the decisive factor in understanding any future relationship with this child, and if necessary maximizing your parental rights.
Understanding Aspects of Legal Paternity and Child Support Obligations in New Jersey
Minus a DNA test, there are numerous circumstances where legal paternity is presumed for a child, some of which are if you:
- were married to the mother when the baby was conceived or born
- signed their birth certificate although you know you are not the biological father
- filled out a voluntary acknowledgment or Certificate of Parentage (COP) form.
The landmark case Miller v. Miller, 478 A.2d 351 (N.J. Sup. Ct. 1984) illustrates another example wherein Gladys Miller married Jay Miller, lived together as a couple with her two children, and after 8 years together with no additional children born during their union, divorced. Gladys requested child support for her daughters and alleged that while married to Jay, he acted both financially and psychologically as the children’s natural father, and thus induced the children’s reliance on him. Jay claimed that he was simply the girls’ stepfather, and although he loved them and refused to allow the girls to visit their father and destroyed child support checks meant for the girls, his feelings for them ended once he and Gladys became legally divorced.
The family court determined that because Jay had chosen to become the sole financial supporter of the girls and cut off their ability to connect with their biological father, Jay created a continuing obligation to provide child support after the divorce.
Although New Jersey has no legal requirement for stepparents to provide financial support for non-biological children in their marriage or civil union, a stepparent can become financially obligated to support them if they voluntarily take on the role of a “true” parent.
What Child Support Requirements can be Applied to Non-Biological Children and Parents in NJ?
Child custody and child support laws apply to all parents in New Jersey, and during divorce litigation or civil union dissolution, the best interest and future wellbeing of the child or children in their relationship should be their priority. Understanding how the relationship dynamics between non-biological children and non-adopted stepchildren with their stepparents can impact financial obligations can be challenging. Especially in cases where the biological parent was out of the picture and the child was emotionally and financially dependent on the stepparent. In some cases, the latter can be viewed as “in loco parentis” or the true parent. As parental bonds are established and nurtured over time, it becomes quite clear why many stepparents want to remain active participants in these children’s lives.
Although second-parent adoptions can make the process easier, non-biologically related individuals who have raised children and acted as the child’s parent may still have some parental rights. It could be argued that losing the emotional and financial support of this person could severely traumatize the child. So even though under NJ divorce law stepparents generally do not have a legal obligation to continue providing this kind of support, some may request it, while others may be court-ordered to provide child support until the child is emancipated.
If you need have questions regarding paying child support for a child you’re not biologically related to, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Edward S. Cooper, Esq. will help you understand your parental rights and if necessary, find practical financial solutions for you which help provide for this children’s financial future.
Contact a Cranford, New Jersey Child Support Attorney for Immediate Assistance
Trying to find a creative solution for your child support issues with your soon-to-be-ex or co-parent can trigger fear, distance, doubt, guilt, impatience, and frustration, in addition to anger and insecurity.
Attorney Edward S. Cooper has experience with and insight into, a variety of child support issues, which makes him highly qualified to provide the best possible representation for you. Serving clients in Carteret, Dunellen, Edison, Highland Park, Helmetta, Jamesburg, and throughout Union County and northern Middlesex County, he’s committed to crafting child support agreements that ensure your children have the necessary foundation and security they deserve.
Contact Mr. Cooper at (908) 481-4625 to discuss your unique needs and situation.