By Peter Van Aulen, Esq.
The Webster’s Dictionary defines paternity as “fatherhood: origin or descent from a father.” Questions of paternity have arisen in family matters with more frequency. As couples decide to delay marriage more often, it means that children are not born during a marital relationship. While this no longer means the child is ‘illegitimate,’ it does still require the father to take additional steps in order to confirm their paternity. This will allow them to request custody and parenting time, as well as child support. Additionally, if the father is a reluctant one, then the mother will need to seek intervention to confirm the relationship between father and child. This will allow the mother to share custody with the father, and also ask for child support.
Indeed, in New Jersey, paternity issues often occur when a mother requests that the alleged father pay child support. The statute in New Jersey that controls the establishment of paternity in New Jersey is the “New Jersey Parentage Act” also known as N.J.S.A. 9:17-38 et seq. According to the statute any person who has sexual intercourse in New Jersey and who may have conceived a child as a result of this conduct submits to the jurisdiction of the Courts in New Jersey – even if they were just visiting. Also, jurisdiction may be acquired by service in accordance with New Jersey Court rules.
The following parties under the statute can bring a paternity action or defend a paternity action:
- The child in question, or a legal representative of that child.
- That child’s mother.
- A representative of the estate of the mother if the mother has died or is a minor child.
- The alleged father, or the man who is claiming to be the father.
- The Division of Family Development, part of the Department of Human Service, or any county’s welfare office if the alleged father has died or is a minor child.
- Any one the Court believes has cause to bring an action in order to establish or deny the existence of a parent-child relationship.
According to N.J.S.A 9:17-43 a man is presumed to be the biological father if:
- The man and the woman who birthed the child were married, and that child was born during the marital relationship or at least within 300 days after the marriage if it was dissolved, annulled, or the man has died.
- The man and the mother tried to marry each other before the child was born in an attempt to comply with the law, but the marriage is subsequently invalid and:
- If the marriage could only be found invalid by a judge and the child is born within 300 days after the marriage’s termination.
- If the marriage is invalidated without an order from the court, and the child is born within 300 days after the parties ceased cohabitating.
- Again, the alleged parents have attempted to marry each other after the child was born in an attempt to comply with the law, although the marriage is held invalid and
- The man already filed a written acknowledgement of paternity with the bureau of vital statistics;
- The man tried to put his name on the child’s birth certificate;
- The man recognizes and openly acknowledges the child as his own;
- The man has agreed to support the child under an order of the court or another written agreement.
- While the child is still a minor, the man accepts the child in his own and acknowledges the child as his own natural child;
- While the child is still a minor, the man supports them (both financially and emotionally) and acknowledges the child as his own natural child;
- The man agrees to his paternity in writing and filed with the bureau of vital statistics. The mother must be immediately informed, and she has not contested the acknowledgement.
A presumption of paternity under the above statute can only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. It is obvious that a finding of paternity can have great consequences for everyone involved. If you are facing a paternity issue, call Peter Van Aulen today for a free initial consultation.