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Determining Paternity in New Jersey: Everything You Need to Know
Let’s examine what paternity is, how it is determined, and the legal ramifications including how it could impact custody and child support.
One of the toughest parts of any family law case is determining child custody and finding an arrangement that’s in the best interest of the child (or children). This aspect is further complicated when the paternity of the child is in question. In order to establish paternity in NJ, let’s first examine what paternity is, how it is determined, and the legal ramifications including how it could impact custody and child support.
Paternity is the legal term for fatherhood and there are two main ways to determine this (at least in the state of New Jersey). First, a state agency, such as a family court, can officially determine paternity once it has been determined that a man is a child’s father.
The second method for determining paternity is when both parents sign an acknowledgment of paternity form and file it with the Department of Health. This form acknowledges that the male parent is officially the child’s father.
If a couple is already married when the child is born, the husband will be designated as the father unless the issue is contested. Then, this will have to be taken to court, in which a genetic test may be necessary to determine if he is, in fact, the father.
Why You Might Want to Establish Paternity of a Child
There are multiple reasons why you should consider formally establishing the paternity of a child. First and foremost is the importance both parents have in the lives of their children.
Even if the parents aren’t together as a couple, they should both work to make the child feel safe and secure. It also provides financial security for the child in question.
Determining paternity is the first step in establishing child support for that specific child. This child support can be for current expenses and even past expenses, and may also cover medical costs related to the child’s birth.
The financial security of the child is also established because the child will be able to inherit wealth and assets from both parents, including benefits related to Social Security. Finally, the knowledge of paternity helps the child to be grounded in a family, by knowing his family name and having full access to his family medical history.
Determining paternity protects the legal rights of the father. Once he’s determined to be the legal father of a child, then he’ll have custodial rights. This means that they’ll have regular visitation and the possibility of full custody if the other parent is determined to be unfit.
Outside of visitation, the parent will have the right to help with decisions such as religious upbringing, education, and healthcare. (For instance, if the father has health insurance through his employer, then he can obtain the same coverage for his child once paternity is established.)
How Do You Begin the Process of Determining Biological Paternity?
There are a few different people who can start the paternity determination process with a formal allegation of paternity. These include:
- The mother of the child;
- The alleged father of the child;
- The child’s custodial parent (if that is not the mother); and
- The child himself/herself.
Once the formal allegation is filed with the court system, then steps will be taken to determine if the allegation is true or not.
How Do You Establish Legal Paternity in New Jersey?
Within 90 days of making the claim with the Office of Child Support and Paternity Programs (OCSPP), they’ll begin the process of determining paternity. If there’s more than one man who might be the father, then proceedings against all of those named by the client will be investigated.
An alleged father will be determined to actually be the father if the genetic testing has at least a 95% likelihood of paternity. The alleged father can also voluntarily sign a Certificate of Parentage with the OCSPP and no testing will be necessary. In this case, he’ll be determined to be the father without a court order or legal judgment.
If the certificate is signed with the office, then the birth certificate will be automatically updated with the father’s name. Otherwise, they’ll have to request that the change is made.
Signing the voluntary acknowledgment requires that both parents be informed in writing about their rights and what signing the document entails. It also allows them to request testing before signing the document and the right to change their mind about signing within 60 days.
How Paternity Affects Child Support
Once paternity is determined (either through testing or voluntary acknowledgment), then the father will be responsible for child support payments and health care coverage. If the father wishes to modify the child support, it must be processed through the court system.
Even if the child’s parents are not married or together as a couple, it’s still imperative the child knows the identities of both parents. Not only will this provide them with the knowledge of their familial identity and a fuller picture of their genetic and medical history, but it’ll also avail them of financial support including medical coverage and the right to inherit property and benefits.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Cherry Hill, NJ Today
If you’re dealing with a paternity matter, you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.