There is no denying how important and special the relationship between parents and their children is. Many parents have expressed the immediate love they feel when a child is conceived or born, and it is this love that allows parents to move mountains for their children. The bond Dads and children share is so important, in fact, that states like New Jersey have put laws into place to help protect that relationship and also ensure children receive the support they need from their fathers. Often times, when there are issues with the child/parent relationship, the issue ends up in New Jersey family law court.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Mothers have most often been regarded as the most important figure in a child’s life – traditional family structures from years past have seen mothers remaining at home to care for children while the father of the family is out financially supporting the household. Because of this traditional view on family structures, the majority of child custody cases of the past have seen the mother being given custody of children. However, more modern court rulings have seen an increased emphasis placed on the importance of a father’s role in a child’s life. Not only are fathers capable caregivers, fathers who are involved in their child’s life have a positive impact on the child’s academic and social achievement.
Establishing Paternity in New Jersey
Establishing a child’s paternity has the potential to benefit the child as well as both parents. By establishing the child’s paternity, the child’s father is given the legal right to request visitation time and even custody of the child – establishing paternity also allows single mothers the opportunity to seek child support from their child’s biological father. Additionally, a child born outside of a marriage has the opportunity to create a relationship with his or her father while also having the love and support of both of parents by establishing a strong parent-child bond. The definition of “paternity” is, in simple terms, “fatherhood,” and there are a few ways in which a child’s paternity can be established.
When a child is born into a marriage in the state of New Jersey, it is assumed the mother’s husband is the child’s legal and biological father. This is also the case during the 10 month period after the mother has divorced or the father has passed away. When a child is born outside of a marriage, there are two legal ways in which paternity can be established. The first of these is a voluntary process that involves both parents signing a document called a “Certificate of Parentage,” which is also referred to as a “Voluntary Acknowledgement.” Should the mother and presumed father be in agreement that the male is indeed the father, they can both voluntarily sign the form and have it notarized.
Once the “Certificate of Parentage” form has been filled out, signed by both parents and notarized, it is then filed with the New Jersey Department of Health. At this time, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate, and he legally becomes the child’s father while the child is now eligible for whatever benefits he or she qualifies for with the father. Once a “Certificate of Parentage” has been filed, it is difficult to retract or change the document. With this in mind, some parents opt to submit to genetic testing in order to prove the child’s biological father before signing the “Certificate of Parentage.”
The second process for establishing paternity in the state of New Jersey is through a Paternity Action. When a child’s parents are not in agreement when it comes to who the child’s father is, they have the option to bring a Paternity Action into the family court system. The individuals who are able to file a paternity action include the child’s mother, the child him or herself, a guardian of the child, a legal representative of the child, any man who believes he is the child’s father, or a welfare agency should the child be receiving any form of state assistance. One the Paternity Action has been filed, the judge may require the mother, child, and any presumed father to submit to genetic testing.
Should an alleged father refuse to submit to genetic testing, the court may see this as an “admission of guilt” and assume that, based on the man’s refusal, he is the child’s father. If this is the case or genetic testing proves one of the presumed fathers to be the child’s biological father, the judge hands down a paternity judgement. At this time, the father’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate, and it is possible for the child’s mother to file a case for child support. Additionally, the newly named father also has the right to petition the court for visitation time or custody of the child.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
When the New Jersey case moves into the child custody/visitation phase, the judge follows the New Jersey “best interests of the child” standard to guide decision making. Under this standard, the judge needs to begin his or her investigation by assuming continued and frequent contact with both parents is within the child’s best interests. Some of the determining factors the judge considers when making a final custody decision includes:
- The child’s safety
- The child’s health
- The child’s emotional needs
- The child’s developmental needs
- Any special medical needs the child has
When evaluating these factors, the judge determines if it is possible for the parents to work with a co-parenting or joint custody agreement. If this is not possible, the judge moves to award sole custody to the parent who best provides for the child’s best interests. New Jersey courts are instructed to not make custody decisions based on parents’ genders but on the child’s overall well-being.
Father’s Right to Child Support in New Jersey
Should the judge decide the father is the better caregiver for the child, he or she awards the father custody. Once custody has been awarded, specifically primary or sole custody, the custodial parent is then able to file a petition for child support. Fathers in the state of New Jersey have rights equal to their female counterparts when it comes to petitioning for and receiving child support, and they also have access to the same child support enforcement agencies offered by the state.
How a Dad’s Rights Lawyer Can Help
When fathers are facing paternity, child custody, or child support issues, it is in their best interests to seek the legal advice and counsel of an attorney who specializes in fathers’ rights in the state of New Jersey. Not only do these legal professionals have a full grasp of the family law and family court system, but they are also able to best position their clients for positive outcomes. Navigating the legal waters, especially in the family law setting, can be confusing and difficult alone, but a good fathers’ rights lawyer can make the process much easier.