Not every relationship ends on an amicable note. If you and your partner were never married but had a child together, animosity from the break-up can spill over into questions about the child’s paternity that arise when the mother wants to seek child support, or the father wants to seek parenting time with the child. There are two ways unmarried parents can establish paternity in New Jersey.
Establishing paternity voluntarily
If both parties agree that the father is the child’s biological parent, they can voluntarily sign a Certificate of Parentage. Doing so establishes paternity with all of the rights and responsibilities that holds.
You can sign a Certificate of Parentage at the hospital when your child is born. You can also sign a Certificate of Parentage at a New Jersey state or county registrar’s office. In addition, a Certificate of Parentage can be signed in your area welfare office or county child support office.
Establishing paternity through a court order
Sometimes there is a disagreement about who a child’s biological father is. If so, paternity can be established through a court order.
Generally, the court will order a DNA test to be done. This can be achieved by collecting saliva through a cheek swab. Both the mother and purported father, along with the child, will be tested. If the test proves the man is the child’s biological parent with a score of 95% or more, the man will be ruled to be the child’s biological father.
The benefits of paternity
Both parents and the child benefit from establishing paternity. The child’s mother can pursue child support once paternity is established. The child’s father can pursue custody or visitation with the child. Note that there are other steps in addition to establishing paternity to complete in order to obtain child support or custody rights — it is not automatic.
Children also benefit from establishing paternity. They benefit from having the financial support of both parents. They benefit from having the opportunity to spend meaningful time with both parents. They gain a sense of identity. They have access to family medical history. In the end, establishing paternity is in the best interests of the child.