It is important to understand that while most births proceed exactly as planned with both parents present at the hospital, there are also many instances in which the issue of parentage is perhaps not so clear cut at the time of birth.
In these scenarios, the legal concept of paternity comes into play, as establishing the identity of a father enables the state to determine which two people are responsible for the care of the child going forward.
In today’s post, the first in a series, we’ll look at some basic background information about establishing paternity here in New Jersey.
What is paternity?
In general, paternity means establishing the identity of a father in the eyes of the law.
Under New Jersey law, if two people are legally married at the time a child was born, the husband is listed as the legal father on the birth certificate and there is no question concerning paternity. However, in the event the parents are not married, paternity must be established in order to set child support obligations and accomplish other important tasks.
Why is paternity so important?
In addition to helping a court set child support obligations, paternity can help preserve a child’s right to certain benefits if their birth father dies (Social Security benefits, veteran’s benefits, property left in a will, etc.) and, if necessary, ensure that they can secure health insurance coverage through their birth father’s employer. From the perspective of the birth father, it can also help ensure parenting time.
What happens if there is no paternity contest, meaning the father agrees the child is his?
If there is no real dispute concerning paternity, the father can simply sign what is known as a Certificate of Parentage. While the father can sign this legally binding document while still at the hospital, it can also be executed at a later point in time at a state/county registrar’s office or a local welfare office.
In future posts, we will examine what happens when the father does not agree that the child is his and how child support obligations are established.