If you are seeking to establish paternity in the State of New Jersey, either as a mother seeking child support or as a father seeking parental rights, you may have many unanswered questions, including:
- What is the process to determine paternity?
- Is a genetic test necessary?
- How is a genetic test performed?
- How does paternity affect rights to child custody and visitation?
- How does paternity affect responsibility for paying child support?
How to Establish Paternity
New Jersey law generally presumes that a child born during marriage is the legal offspring of the married parents. A father who is not married to the child’s mother must establish paternity some other way. Putting the father’s name on the birth certificate is not sufficient. Both parents must also sign a written admission or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. In New Jersey, this is called a Certificate of Parentage form, and it will be available at the hospital where a child is born. After the birth, a father can obtain the form from a local registrar or a county welfare agency up until the child’s 23rd birthday. The acknowledgment becomes a legal finding of paternity, unless the father rescinds it within 60 days. A challenge to a legal finding of paternity can generally be based only on fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.
If either parent is uncertain about the identity of the child’s biological father, they can request human leukocyte antigen (HLA) testing through the local county welfare agency. This genetic test costs a few hundred dollars, which is usually shared by the parties. In some cases, the cost is covered by welfare. If the test is positive, the agency will ask the parents to sign a Certificate of Parentage, or, if they decline, may pursue a court order establishing paternity. The HLA test is simple and the results are highly accurate.
Paternity Hearings and Orders
If you are a mother attempting to establish paternity and the father refuses to participate in genetic testing, you can request a paternity hearing. The judge will ask the man you have identified if he is the father of the child. If he admits that he is, the court will enter an Order of Filiation (Paternity). This order can form the basis for a child support request. If the man denies being the father, the court will order him to take the HLA test. After the test results are returned, another hearing will be scheduled before a Probation Officer or a Hearing Officer. A court can issue a default order establishing paternity if a man is served notice of a paternity hearing and does not appear.
Benefits in Determining New Jersey Paternity
There are many reasons for parents to establish paternity legally. A court or agency cannot enter a child support order for a child born to unmarried parents until paternity has been established. The legal finding of paternity creates the basis for the financial support obligation, as well as the basis for the father to file a request for custody or visitation orders. The person who benefits most from establishing legal paternity is the child. In addition to establishing the child’s right to receive support from both parents, potential benefits include:
- Knowledge of Medical History—Many medical conditions are hereditary. It can benefit a child and the child’s parents to know if the biological father has a hereditary condition that could be passed on to the child. This information could lead to early treatment, potentially forestalling serious complications down the road.
- Eligibility for Medical Insurance—Once paternity is established, a child may be eligible to receive medical coverage under the legal father’s plan.
- Eligibility for Benefits—in certain situations, once paternity is established, a child may qualify for benefits such as social security, veterans, or life insurance benefits, based on the legal father’s disability or death.
- Inheritance Rights—if a child’s legal father dies without a will, the child may be eligible to receive a portion of the father’s estate through intestate succession.
Confidential and Comprehensive Legal Support
If you are considering attempting to establish paternity, a New Jersey family law attorney can provide you with more information regarding the process and the potential consequences. The skilled and compassionate attorneys at Weinberger Law Group understand that paternity issues can be sensitive. Contact us to set up a confidential consultation. Take the first step. Call us today: 888-888-0919.