If you father a child in New Jersey, you automatically receive legal paternity if you have married the child’s mother. Unmarried fathers must establish paternity before they can seek child custody or visitation.
Review the process of obtaining your parental rights in New Jersey as an unmarried father.
The state allows you and the child’s mother to voluntarily establish paternity through the state’s Paternity Opportunity Program. Both parents must sign a certificate of parentage, which you can obtain at the hospital after birth.
If you are unsure whether you are the child’s biological father, do not sign the certificate. After doing so, you become responsible for child support and health care. You can also request custody or visitation from New Jersey Family Court.
Either parent can request genetic testing from the state Office of Child Support and Paternity Programs. You should take this step when you may not be the child’s biological father. For the court to recognize you as the legal father, you must have a test at a state-approved lab that declares at least a 95% probability of paternity.
Custody and visitation
If you can agree with the child’s mother on a fair visitation schedule, you can submit this parenting plan to the court for approval. Otherwise, you can petition the court in the county where your child lives for custody or visitation. The judge will review your case to determine a visitation or custody arrangement that serves your child’s best interests.
Generally, New Jersey will preserve the parental relationship except in cases involving domestic violence, abuse or neglect.