Family Lawyers Help Mothers and Fathers with Child Custody
Unlike married fathers, an unmarried biological father must take extra steps to be recognized as the legal father of a child, which sometimes includes paternity testing. Unmarried parents usually have an opportunity to accomplish legal paternity by signing an acknowledgment of paternity at the hospital shortly after birth. However, this can only be done if both parents are present and agree on biological paternity.
In New York, the legal document for paternity is called a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, or VAP. In New Jersey, this document is called a Certificate of Parentage, or COP.
What if a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is Not Signed?
Unmarried fathers should know that being named on a birth certificate is likely insufficient to establish legal paternity. If unmarried parents do not sign a VAP or a COP, either a father or mother is able to file a paternity lawsuit to establish the father’s legal parentage.
If either parent is unsure about the biological paternity of the child, either a mother or father can request and receive DNA paternity testing. DNA paternity testing is easily conducted and usually only involves swabbing the cheeks of the mother, father and child.
Once the DNA paternity testing demonstrates the man is the biological father, the courts will consider the issues of child custody, child support, visitation rights and parenting time.
Why Does A Biological Father Need Paternity Testing or a Paternity Suit?
Unmarried biological fathers will have no rights to a child unless he signs a VAP or COP, or he receives a court order declaring him to be the legal father. This means an unmarried biological father who is not a legal father has no say in how the child is raised, could not enforce parenting time or visitation rights, or stop a mother from moving away with the child.
Once child custody, parenting time and visitation rights are established, the court will also enter a child support order. If legal paternity is never established and the child receives money from the state, state administrative agencies may seek to establish legal paternity from the biological father for reimbursement of funds paid on behalf of the child.
New York and New Jersey Paternity Lawyers for Mothers and Fathers
It is best for a father, mother and child if the rights and obligations are made clear as soon as possible after birth. Even if the mother and father are living together and feel they do not need to establish legal paternity, this is untrue. Paternity lawsuits do not have to be adversarial proceedings if the parents agree on all issues.
Our family lawyers have been working on behalf of New York and New Jersey parents for over 40 years. Get in touch with our family lawyers today to learn more about the best legal avenues for establishing paternity, child custody and New Jersey and New York child support.