Becoming a father is an exciting time in a person’s life. It’s a transformative experience that can bring immense joy, fulfillment, and purpose to a person’s life. From the first time you hold your child in your arms to watching them grow and develop into their own unique person, fatherhood can provide a sense of meaning and connection that few other experiences can match.
However, unless you have established paternity, you have no legal rights to develop a relationship with your child.
The process of establishing paternity
There are a variety of reasons why someone may want to establish legal paternity, including:
- Giving the father the right to seek custody and visitation
- Allowing the child to receive financial support from the father
- Helping to establish connections with the father’s side of the family
- Providing financial benefits and protections to the child if the father dies or becomes disabled
In New Jersey, paternity can be established in a few different ways:
1. Presumption of paternity. If the couple is married or in a registered domestic partnership at birth, the mother’s partner is assumed to be the legal father.
2. Certificate of Parentage. If both parents agree on the identity of the child’s biological father, they can sign a form that acknowledges the man as the legal father. The form can be signed at the hospital at the time of birth or at the State Office of Vital Statistics and Registry.
3. Court order. If there is uncertainty about the child’s parentage, the court can order genetic testing to establish paternity.
Establishing paternity can be straightforward if both parents agree. But, it can become complex if there are disagreements or doubts. Having someone who can guide you through the process can help protect your and your child’s legal rights.