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How is Paternity Established in New Jersey?

By Jamie Berger, Esq.

It is a common misconception that only married parents or parents who have been married and then divorced have equal rights when it comes to their children in New Jersey. This is simply not true, as mothers and fathers do share equal rights when it comes to child custody and child support. However, fathers must establish paternity first in order to exercise fathers’ rights in NJ. There are a handful of ways through which families can move to grant a father legal paternity which can benefit both parents and children.

The trusted paternity attorneys at Jacobs Berger have extensive experience protecting the legal rights of parents in Morris County and further across New Jersey. We believe that children benefit from relationships with both parents when possible. Our firm takes pride in working with fathers and mothers, and other family members to establish paternity and tenable parental agreements.

Contact our family law office today for a confidential and comprehensive Strategic Planning Session to learn more about how you can establish paternity, the benefits of doing so, and what we can do to best serve your individual needs.

Establishing Paternity for Fathers

Pursuant to New Jersey statutes, there are several methods NJ paternity lawyers can use to establish paternity for fathers. No matter where you are in the legal process, you should still have one of these actions at your disposal.

The three primary methods for establishing paternity are:

Paternity for married couples – husbands are presumed to be the father of a child if the child is born during a marriage. This also includes up to ten (10) months following the death of a husband or after a divorce. It is worth noting that this presumption can be formally challenged when appropriate.

Certificate of parentage – if the parents are unmarried, they may also simply sign a document known as a certificate of parentage. This document means that both parents agree who the father of the child is, and are legally binding unless future action is taken.

Paternity action – when parents cannot come to an agreement about a child’s parentage, a paternity action can be filed in the New Jersey Family Courts system to establish paternity.

What to Know When Filing Paternity Actions

So, what exactly is involved in a paternity action in New Jersey? Children, fathers, mothers, legal guardians, legal representatives, and welfare agencies all have the legal right to petition the New Jersey Superior Court to establish paternity. It is important to understand that at this point, parents may agree to the paternity claim without genetic testing.

When a mother or father denies the accuracy of a paternity action, genetic testing may be ordered by a judge. If either party refuses to submit to a court-ordered DNA test, it is within the authority of a judge to use that refusal as evidence of paternity. Before ordering a DNA test, judges may consider all of the following:

  • How long the parental dispute regarding paternity has been ongoing
  • If the father is already acting as a parent to the child in a practical sense
  • The age of the child
  • The desires of the child if they are an appropriate age
  • The existing relationship between the child and alleged father
  • Much more

When Should I Establish Paternity of My Child?

There are many reasons to establish paternity in New Jersey from both a personal and a legal standpoint. As mentioned in the introduction, parents’ rights are equal for both mothers and fathers, but only after both parents have been legally established.

For fathers, successfully seeking paternity will entitle you to child custody and/or parenting time. Child custody not only refers to the physical or residential custody, but also legal child custody which entitles you to being a part of major decisions in your child’s life. Legal child custody covers topics such as medical choices, religious choices, education, and much more.

For mothers and other caretakers, not only will a present and engaged father likely benefit your child psychologically, but practically as well. Paternity orders entitle the custodial parent to child support which may extend back in time. There also may be fringe benefits such as a child being able to be added to a father’s health insurance.

Contact our Morristown Paternity Test Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our paternity and parental rights attorneys understand that the issues of parentage and paternity are of the utmost importance to our clients. Not only can a successful petition for paternity lay existing personal issues to rest, but it also gives both parents the opportunities and the responsibilities that they should enjoy as parents. Our attorneys believe in offering highly personalized and dynamic legal solutions for all our clients.

If you have any questions or concerns about paternity as a parent, child, or caregiver, please call us: 973-354-4551.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.