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Bergen County Paternity Attorneys

Helping Dads Secure Parental Rights and Obligations

When a child is born, New Jersey law automatically recognizes the parental rights of the birth mother.  Absent adoption or other relinquishment of parental rights, the birth mother is considered the legal mother of the child under New Jersey law.  A father, however, may have to go through additional steps to secure any parental rights or obligations.

There are many good reasons to establish paternity.  The child will be covered by the father’s health insurance and other benefits such as veteran’s benefits or Social Security.  The child will receive a proper inheritance from the father’s estate when the father passes away.  The child’s mother or other second parent may wish to establish paternity to ensure that the father pays child support and otherwise fulfills his parental obligations.  Moreover, there are certainly personal, emotional, and moral reasons to want to establish paternity:  Establishing paternity is beneficial for the relationship between father and child, and it is likely good for the child’s emotional well-being.

The law office of Herbert & Weiss, Attorneys at Law, has been protecting the rights of mothers and fathers in Bergen County, New Jersey, and surrounding areas since 1994.  Our Englewood family law and child custody lawyers know how important familial ties can be, and we know how to use New Jersey law to protect the rights and ensure enforcement of the obligations of parents in New Jersey.

Establishing Paternity in New Jersey

While maternity is automatically established at birth, the paternity of an unwed father must be legally established in one of several ways.  If the parties both agree on the identity of the father, then the father can sign a Certificate of Parentage (COP), a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.  The COP can be signed at the hospital immediately upon the birth of a child or at a later date at a county registrar’s office or a welfare office.  Once paternity is established, the father is responsible for paying child support and will also have the right to seek visitation or custody.

If either party disputes the identity of the father, then paternity will have to be proven.  Generally, paternity can be proven by using genetic testing.  Either parent or a county office can request a genetic test, or a court can order a test to be done.  Putative fathers also have the right to seek genetic testing if they have “reasonable doubt” as to the parentage of their children.

Once genetic testing has proven paternity, any interested party (the natural mother, the man presumed to be the natural father, a man seeking to be named the father, or anyone named on the birth certificate) can seek to have paternity established in court.  A dedicated New Jersey paternity lawyer can help you through the paternity establishment process, whether you are a father seeking parental rights or a mother seeking to hold a father legally responsible for child support and other benefits.

Legal Presumption of Paternity

Under New Jersey law, there may be a “legal presumption” of paternity depending on the circumstances.  A legal presumption is a fact that a court will assume to be true unless there is specific evidence to prove otherwise–the burden, then, would be on anyone challenging paternity.

New Jersey courts will presume paternity under certain circumstances, including the following:

  • The parents were married within 300 days of the birth. The most traditional means to establish paternity is to be married to the birth mother.  If the parents were married at the time of birth, or the father died or the parties divorced within 300 days of the birth, then the husband is presumed to be the father.  If a woman is in a civil union or marriage with another woman, her female partner or spouse will also have the legal presumption of parentage.
  • The parties married after the birth of the child. New Jersey law will presume that a father who married the birth mother after the child was born is the father if the following is true:
    • The father acknowledges paternity in writing to the state registrar;
    • The father seeks to have his name added to the child’s birth certificate;
    • The father presents himself as the child’s father to other people; AND
    • The father agrees to child support or is ordered by a court to pay child support
  • Unmarried father who declares himself the father. If the man tells people he is the father and provides support for the child before the child turns 18, he will be the presumed father.
  • Biological father is not the husband. If a child is born to a marriage, but the biological father is not the husband, the natural parents may still secure a legal presumption of parentage for the biological father.  The biological father and the mother must sign the COP, and the husband and mother must sign a “Denial of Parentage” form, which acknowledges that the husband is not the father.  The parties must then file the forms with the county registrar.

There are additional circumstances that call for a legal presumption of paternity, such as situations involving artificial insemination.  A knowledgeable Englewood paternity and child custody lawyer can answer your questions and help you with a New Jersey paternity matter.

Get Help Establishing Paternity from our Englewood Family Lawyers

Our New Jersey paternity lawyers are ready to help you and your children establish paternity so that everyone is guaranteed their rights under New Jersey family law.  Our dedicated New Jersey family law attorneys will work with you and your family to find a practical and effective solution to your unique needs.  Call our Englewood office at 201-440-6300 for a telephone consultation about your New Jersey family law matter.

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