As traditional family structures evolve, more parents are unmarried today than ever before. Why is this? One reason is that the strict religious beliefs and moral codes of yesterday are not adhered to like they were in the past. Other couples put off getting married because they worry about divorce, or do not want to be tied down to one person.

Just like married parents though, unmarried ones are responsible for caring for and supporting their children. All parents have certain rights that they should be aware of, and these vary by state. Single parents can get the process started by formalizing their custody arrangements.

Establishing Paternity in New Jersey

When children are born to married parents, the mother’s spouse is considered as the second parent. If the children are adopted though, whichever parent adopted them is their legal parent. In New Jersey, there are custody guidelines that apply to unmarried parents, and these are designed to protect their parental rights.

For biological parents, the first step is to establish paternity, which can be done via a voluntary acknowledgment. The mother is recognized as the child’s mother, but the father must prove his paternity before any custody orders can be decided. If his name is on the birth certificate or if a legitimization form is signed after the child is born, these may also be used.

If the parents are not able to cooperate on this, the father has the option of filing a lawsuit that can establish his paternity. This may necessitate a court-ordered DNA test, which is done by taking saliva samples from the father, mother, and child. The test needs to have a score of 95 percent or above to establish paternity.

Determining Custody Rights

If custody issues, such as paternity and child support, cannot be resolved, one or both parents may wish to file a complaint with the court. Afterwards, a consent conference may be scheduled. This is a way to resolve the problem without going into court and is mediated by a court representative. If the consent conference is not successful, both parents will have to present the case in front of a judge. They will need to prepare for this by gathering documentation, evidence, and witness testimony, if applicable.

New Jersey Child Custody

There are two types of child custody, physical and legal; physical pertains to who the child will live with most of the time, and legal pertains to decisions regarding care, schooling, religion, and other important choices. To arrive at a decision, the court will make the children’s best interests the priority. As in cases with married couples, they will consider their gender, age, activities, health needs, education requirements, and how the parents relate to the children and each other. It is important to know that whether the parents are married or not, they have the same rights when it comes to issues that affect their children.

South Jersey Child Custody Lawyers at the Burnham Law Group, LLC Help Unmarried Parents with Custody Issues

As an unmarried parent in New Jersey, you are entitled to certain legal rights, and a South Jersey child custody lawyer at the Burnham Law Group, LLC can provide you with effective legal guidance for child custody and support issues. For a free case evaluation, call us or fill out an online form. Our Marlton and Somers Point, New Jersey offices help families in South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, and Atlantic County.