When discussing child support, custody, timesharing or visitation of minor children, we often discuss these things in terms of a divorce. But not all parents of newborn children are married. That means that paternity cases must be filed, to establish rights and responsibilities of the unmarried parents of a child.
Why File a Paternity Action?
Any party can file a paternity action, and there are reasons why either a mother or father may want to do so.
A mother may want to establish that a man is the father of the child, in order to have child support established. Conversely, a father may want a determination of paternity, so that he can have all the legal rights that a natural father has over a child.
It does happen that a mother says that a man is the father, and the man disagrees. And even if the man is found to be the father, the man can still contest or challenge child support or timesharing, the same way that either parent could in a traditional divorce case.
Courts will have to resolve these issues, in a paternity action.
Presumptions of Parentage
If both parents agree that dad is in fact the dad of the child, they can file a form with the state, called a certificate of parentage, whereby the father acknowledges his paternity over the child. This can be done at the time of the child’s birth, but can also be done at any time afterward; many hospitals will provide the form to unmarried parents.
If this is not done, certain factors will carry a presumption of paternity.
Marriage of the parents is, of course, a presumption of parentage. Additionally, if a man was married to a woman, but was divorced (or deceased) 300 days before the child’s birth, paternity is presumed.
In some cases, the marriage of the parents after the birth of the child will carry a presumption of paternity, although the father must acknowledge paternity to the state.
Voluntarily providing support to a minor child also may lead to a presumption of paternity by an unmarried father.
Married Couples and Parentage
It sometimes happens that parents are married when a child is born—but the parents acknowledge that the husband is not the natural father of the child. The husband, wife, or both, may want to establish that the husband is not the legal father of the child.
To do this, the mother and the biological father must file a certificate of parentage, and the husband and wife file must file a denial of parentage form with the State of New Jersey.
Paternity Actions in Court
All of this is to establish (or disestablish) parentage outside of court.
In the absence of signing any of these forms, or getting consent of any husband or father, parties can file a paternity action in court, to have paternity definitively established or disestablished. Parties also may need to file a paternity action, to rebut any presumptions of fatherhood that either party may disagree with.
Contact our New Jersey family law and paternity attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC today for help with your paternity or divorce case.