The concept of “paternity” is defined as the state of being someone's father in a biological or legal sense. A child's paternity is typically noted on the birth certificate, but it can also be listed on a final decree of adoption issued by the county's Surrogate Court. Such documents establish a legal relationship between the child and parent, thereby obligating the parent to provide a certain level of care and support. This relationship is easy to establish when a child is born to married parents, who will automatically be listed as the mother and father on the birth certificate. Things, however, may not be so simple for unmarried parents, especially if they are no longer together. It's not uncommon in these cases for the fathers to deny paternity, which forces the mothers to seek legal action through the state's Office of Child Support and Paternity Programs (OCSPP).
The OCSPP gives either party the right to request genetic testing, after which they can sign the Certificate of Parentage if it is proven that the man in question is the father. By signing the document, he would assume all the rights and responsibilities of a biological father, including child support and visitation. This procedure, however, only relates to situations in which the alleged father agrees to be tested, or voluntarily acknowledges that he is the father. If the alleged father refuses to be tested, the mother, child, or the child's legal guardian will need to file a motion with the Surrogate Court in order to compel DNA testing. A paternity action can also be filed when more than one person may be the father, which can be done even before the child's birth. However, the court will not make a ruling until the child is born, even if the parties participate in non-invasive prenatal DNA testing.
The other type of situation in which court action is necessary is when a married couple disputes the paternity of a child born during the marriage. This is not uncommon in divorce cases involving adultery, where there is at least the chance that the child may have been conceived with another partner. While some people may find such actions distasteful, there are important reasons for establishing a child's true parentage. A biological parent, for example, is often the best match for children who need blood, tissue and organ donations.
If you have further questions about New Jersey's paternity testing laws, please schedule a free consultation with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. The state's guidelines for establishing paternity at http://www.njchildsupport.org/ are a good source of procedural information, but you will need to consult an attorney for legal advice. You may also need help with legal action such as filing a petition or requesting modifications to an existing court order. Regardless of the complexity of your situation, our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to help you determine the best course of action.