If you’re a father or soon will be a father, you may be under the assumption that you will be named on the birth certificate. However, that is not always the case.
Some fathers need to establish paternity legally. What does that mean, and why is it important?
How New Jersey determines paternity
If a couple is married, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child and listed on the birth certificate, as long as the couple was together at the time of conception, birth or 300 days before the birth.
If the parents were not married during that time, just listing the father’s name on the birth certificate does not formally establish paternity. There are a couple of options to be legally acknowledged as the child’s father:
- Both parents can complete and sign a voluntary Certificate of Parentage (COP) immediately after birth. If it’s done anywhere other than the hospital, registrar’s office or in court, the parents must request the father’s name to be added to the birth certificate.
- The Office of Child Support and Paternity Programs (OCSPP) may order genetic testing of any alleged fathers to determine legal paternity
Establishing paternity is essential for several reasons:
- It allows the father to obtain legal rights towards the child, including custody and visitation.
- It helps provide financial support for the child.
- Bonding with both parents can improve the child’s emotional health.
- It encourages contact with the father’s side of the family.
- It provides the child the right to claim VA benefits, social security and inheritances.
Legal acknowledgment of fatherhood is crucial for the parent and child to have legal rights to a relationship.
Since establishing paternity is a legal process, it’s best to seek guidance from someone familiar with the requirements and documentation.