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How New Jersey Courts Determine Paternity in Child Support Cases

Dad and baby

It comes as a surprise to some that a man can be ordered to pay New Jersey child support – even if the child isn’t his biologically. Although genetic parentage certainly helps to make a compelling case, Middlesex County child support attorneys can explain it isn’t the only factor the court will consider.

For women, the process is typically straightforward: If she gave birth to or adopted the child (including in a same-sex relationship), she is considered the mother.

Determining paternity for child support purposes, however, is a bit more complicated. We start with the legal presumption of paternity.

When Paternity is Presumed

There are a few default situations where the Court will lean on the assumption that a man is the father unless proven otherwise by way of sufficient evidence. These include:

  • Man was married to the mother within 300 days of the child being born. Any man who is the husband of the child’s mother 300 days before the child’s birth is going to be presumed the father – even if the pair divorced or he died by the time the child was born. This is true even if the husband is not the biological father, so long as both he and the mother sign a certificate of parentage and file state Registrar forms.
  • Men who married the mother after the birth. This is applicable only when he acknowledges paternity, has his name added as father on the birth certificate, tells others the baby is his own and agrees/is ordered by the court to pay child support.
  • Man tells others he is the father and he provides support for the child. It does not matter whether the parents are married if these two conditions are met.
  • Artificial insemination. Where married couples choose to have a child by way of artificial insemination, the husband is presumed the father if he both consents to the procedure and the insemination occurs under the supervision of a licensed doctor. That last part is important because if artificial insemination occurs outside the oversight of a physician, this legal presumption won’t apply. (The same is also true when two women in a marriage or civil union agree to artificial insemination to become parents.)

Disputing Paternity in New Jersey Child Support Cases

There are two basic ways the one can establish/dispute paternity.

  • A court-ordered judgment of paternity OR judgment of adoption stating the man in question is the child’s father.
  • Both parents sign and submit a certificate of parentage to the state Registrar. This is considered enforceable proof of paternity, the same as a court-ordered judgment.

Any challenge to a child’s paternity needs to happen before the child’s 23rd birthday, and any evidence presented needs to meet the clear and convincing evidence standard.

A DNA test is just one piece of evidence in a paternity case – albeit a powerful one – with the Cleveland Clinic reporting that one’s paternity can be determined with 99.9 percent accuracy with a DNA test and excluded with 100 percent accuracy. Courts will often order a test taken in cases where one or both parents want to establish paternity – or be excluded from the responsibility.

A dedicated family law attorney in Middlesex County can help you navigate the process.

For more information on New Jersey family law and paternity testing, contact Family Law Attorney Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder by filing out our contact form or calling (732) 810-0034.