You never married the father of your child, and now you and your child’s father broke up. While you may feel sad, angry or even relieved, you need to start thinking about your future. Specifically, you will want to consider pursuing child support to help you out financially as you raise your child.
If you are not married to your child’s father, and you want to collect child support, paternity must be established. Paternity is the legally binding self-acknowledgement or court order stating your child’s father is your child’s biological parent for all legal purposes. Since you are not married to your child’s biological father, he must pay child support for the care and upbringing of your child.
There are two ways to establish paternity in New Jersey. You can voluntarily sign a Certificate of Parentage, or you can seek a court order.
Signing a Certificate of Parentage
You and your child’s father can voluntarily sign a Certificate of Parentage, which is a legally binding order of paternity. By signing, you and your child’s father acknowledge that he is the child’s biological parent and is legally responsible for the child. Your name and his name will be included in your child’s birth certificate.
This form is available at the hospital where your child is born and can be signed then. If you do not sign a Certificate of Parentage at the hospital you can sign one at your local registrar’s office at any time following your child’s birth.
Obtaining a court order
If you do not sign a Certificate of Parentage or fatherhood is contested, you can file a complaint with the court to establish paternity. You and your child’s alleged father will both submit to DNA testing. DNA testing must be performed at a state-approved location.
If the DNA test reveals that there is a 95% or greater probability that the man is the child’s biological father, that is enough to establish paternity.
The importance of paternity
It is important to establish paternity for many reasons. First, you cannot seek child support unless parentage is established. Second, a father cannot seek visitation with his child until paternity is established.
Most importantly, establishing paternity benefits your child by giving them a sense of identity, family history and the opportunity to develop a relationship with their father.