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What is Paternity Establishment in NJ?

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Fatherhood carries important rights and responsibilities. However, unlike motherhood, fatherhood is not always readily apparent. When someone claims to be the father (or to not be the father) of a child, what are the legal options available to the interested parties? How can paternity be established, and what rights and obligations does paternity confer? To learn about establishing paternity in New Jersey, read on. If you have questions concerning paternity or another matter of New Jersey family law, call a knowledgeable New Jersey paternity and family law attorney.

What is Paternity?

Paternity is the legal status of being someone’s father. Whereas the maternity of a child is assumed in all circumstances, the legal identity of a child’s father may or may not be established at the time of a child’s birth, and it may be challenged under certain circumstances. Legal paternity carries the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, including the right to custody or visitation, inheritance rights for the child, and parental obligations including paying child support.

Establishing Paternity in New Jersey

If a child is born to a married couple, New Jersey law presumes that both parties are the child’s parents. The presumption may apply if the parties marry shortly after the child is born, depending on certain additional factors. The married couple can rebut this presumption and keep the father’s name off the birth certificate by filing an Affidavit of Denial of Paternity.

If the mother is unmarried when a child is born, then the legal paternity of the child must be established. There are two general ways to establish paternity: Voluntary acknowledgment and genetic testing.

If both parents agree on the identity of the father, the parents can fill out and sign a Certificate of Parentage (COP) with the birth certificate coordinator at the time of the child’s birth. The COP is a sworn statement that both parties believe the person to be the father. Parties can complete a COP either at the hospital with the birth certificate coordinator or at a later date at the local registrar’s office or county welfare agency. Parties have 60 days after submitting a certificate of parentage to cancel the paternity acknowledgment.

If either party disputes the child’s parentage, then they must seek to establish parentage in court. An interested party (the mother, the assumed father, the child, or a person claiming to be the biological father) can seek to establish parentage in court. The court will likely order the child and other relevant parties to submit to a DNA test. The test will seek to establish the identity of the child’s biological father. DNA tests typically prove parentage with a greater than 95 percent level of certainty. Based on the DNA test and other evidence, the court will issue a Judgment of Paternity as to the identity of the legal father.

Seasoned Legal Help With Your New Jersey Parentage or Family Law Matter

If you need efficient and effective legal help with paternity, child custody, divorce, premarital agreements, child support, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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