It is becoming frequently common for couples to have children outside the marital relationship, for a multitude of reasons. Part of it has to do with delaying marriage – part of it has to do with the relaxing of stricter moral or religious codes regarding sex prior to marriage. Regardless, when children are born outside the marriage, both parents still have a duty to care and support their children. However, there are certain New Jersey custody laws for unmarried parents that these individuals should be aware of in order to preserve their parental rights.
Establishing Parental Rights
The mother is always presumed to be the mother of the child, whether married or not. But for fathers, the New Jersey custody laws for unmarried parents include a requirement to establish paternity before any orders can be issued concerning custody, visitation or support. There is a multitude of ways unmarried parents can establish paternity. If the parties never marry, then the father will need to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. A certificate of parentage can establish paternity and can be executed at the hospital during the child’s birth. The parents will need to meet with a birth certificate coordinator who will explain the provisions and significance of the form. Then, they will need to present valid identification and fill out the certificate. Their signatures must then be witnessed by the coordinator. Of course, if the parents do not fill out the form at the hospital, it can be completed later at either a local registrar’s office or county welfare agency.
He can also file a lawsuit to establish paternity, where a court will determine that he is the father. The couple can marry shortly after the child is born and sign a legitimization form, or the father can agree to his name put on the birth certificate and agrees to support the child. The father can also welcome the child into his home and openly hold out the child as his own. However, it is also best to get a court order or acknowledgment of paternity on file to get rid of any question as to the paternity of the child. Continue reading