Custody for Unmarried Couples in New Jersey
Under New Jersey law, a parent’s rights are not diminished because they are unmarried. Unmarried couples have the same responsibilities and rights as any parents, including those regarding child custody, although unmarried fathers may have to establish their paternity to be granted parental rights and obligations.
If you have questions regarding custody for unmarried couples in New Jersey, reach out to a qualified child custody attorney today. An experienced child custody attorney can help you throughout the process of securing parental rights through the legal system.
Establishing Paternity in New Jersey
The issue of paternity often looms large during custody disputes between unmarried couples. According to state law, a husband is presumed to be the father of a minor child that is born during his marriage. For that reason, paternity is typically not in dispute when resolving custody issues during a divorce.
The same is not true for unmarried parents. There are additional steps that these couples must take to ensure the father’s paternity is recognized under the law. This process does not have to be difficult or litigious. A father who signs the birth certificate and acknowledges a child as his own is presumed to have paternity for legal purposes.
Conflicts can arise when there is no presumption of paternity. In these cases, it is necessary to establish paternity before the court can address child custody.
When a couple is not in agreement on the question of paternity, either side has the right to petition the courts to intervene. A judge may order the potential father to submit to a DNA test. If the DNA test confirms that he is the biological father of the child, the rights and obligations that come with parenthood will be formally recognized by the court. A New Jersey attorney with experience handling custody for non-married individuals can guide someone through the process of establishing paternity in NJ.
Child Custody Agreements for Unmarried Parents
There are multiple factors that the court will take into consideration when determining custody between unmarried parents. Each parent has the right to be heard and to submit a proposed parenting agreement. Children of sufficient age and capacity to reason may also be heard on matters of child custody if the Court deems it appropriate. Regardless, the court has the final say on what the custody arrangement will be.
As is the case with all child custody cases, the judge overseeing a dispute between unmarried parents must act in the best interests of the child. Sometimes the best scenario for a child is an arrangement that neither parent proposes.
Physical and Legal Custody
The court must determine how to award physical and legal custody of the child between unmarried parents. A parent with physical custody is entitled to decide where the child lives. Legal custody, on the other hand, is the right to make important decisions for the child.
Judges have the power to award these custody rights to one or both parents. Awarding custody to one parent is known as sole custody. Joint custody occurs when both parents share parental rights and obligations. A seasoned New Jersey child custody attorney can explain the importance of different custody arrangements to an unmarried parent and help them understand their rights in a custody dispute.
Discuss your Rights as an Unmarried Parent with a Child Custody Attorney
Marital status does not dictate your rights as a parent. You are entitled to petition the court for changes to the custody arrangement as well as other parental rights.
To ensure your rights are protected at this critical time in your child’s life, reach out to a child custody attorney today. A lawyer well-practiced in custody for unmarried couples in New Jersey can answer any questions you may have and ensure your family’s wellbeing.