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Do Unmarried Parents Have Custody Rights in New Jersey?

As time goes on, more parents are unmarried today than ever before. It is important to know that unmarried parents have the same rights to their children as married parents do. This includes matters of child custody, child support, parenting time, etc. All parents, regardless of their marital state, are obligated to care for and support their children. However, there are some challenges that unmarried parents may face when seeking these rights. It is because of this that it is important to formalize the proper arrangements. 

Establishing Paternity

In the state of New Jersey, there are custody guidelines in place that apply to unmarried parents in order to protect their parental rights. When dealing with custody in these situations, it is crucial to understand that an unmarried father has no parental rights to a child unless paternity is established first. This can be done in two different ways:

  • Voluntary acknowledgment. If both parents agree on the identity of the father, he can then accept his rights and responsibilities. This can be done by putting his name on the birth certificate or with a legitimized form signed after the birth. 
  • A court-ordered DNA test. If there is a question as to who the father is or parents cannot cooperate on the issue, the father can file a lawsuit in order to establish his paternity. This can be done with a court-ordered DNA test in which saliva samples are taken from the father, mother, and child. It is important to note that the test needs a score of 95% or above to establish paternity.

Once paternity is established, the unmarried parents both have the same child custody rights to their children. These custody situations are similar to those of divorcing parents. This means that they can seek joint custody or sole custody of the child. 

Determining Custody Rights

Just as many other family law matters, if issues arise regarding custody and parents are unable to resolve them, one or both of them may want to file a complaint with the court. When this happens, a consent conference may be scheduled to resolve the matter without going to court. Instead, it can be mediated by a court representative. In the event that the conference is unsuccessful, both parents can present their case in front of a judge. In doing so, it is important to be prepared with any necessary documentation, evidence, and witness testimonies. 

Contact our Firm

If you need an experienced legal team to guide you through your divorce, contact Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark L.L.C today.