Whether you are divorced, separated or were never married to your child’s mother, as a non-custodial father in New Jersey, you have clear legal rights. New Jersey law recognizes that it is in a child’s best interests to spend time with both parents in most cases, and it does not presume that a mother is more fit or qualified to raise a child than a father.
Of course, you have certain responsibilities as a non-custodial father as well. If you fail to meet your responsibilities, the New Jersey court may interpret your failure as a failure to act in the best interests of your child, which is the foundation upon which child custody and visitation decisions are made. If you don’t live up to your responsibilities, you can seriously hamper your relationship with your child as well as face legal repercussions.
So you owe it to both yourself and your children to understand your rights and your responsibilities and to make smart decisions when it comes to dealing with matters of custody, visitation and child support.
Non-Custodial Father’s Rights & Duties
As a non-custodial father in New Jersey, you have the right to spend quality time with your child, the right to a fair child support obligation and the right to receive information when requested about your child custody/visitation/support case. If you believe you are not being granted these rights, a New Jersey divorce attorney can assess your case and stand up for your interests.
Parenting Time Rights
Except in unusual circumstances, such as abuse or desertion of the child, for example, the New Jersey family law courts will grant visitation, or parenting time rights, to non-custodial fathers. If you have a visitation order, you are entitled to see your children during your scheduled visitation without interference from your former spouse or partner. If your former spouse or partner interferes with your parenting time, they can potentially be held in contempt of court and/or face other penalties.
The Right to an Appropriate Child Support Award
As a non-custodial father, you will most likely be required to pay child support following your divorce or separation. While you can absolutely spend more money on your children than the law requires, you should not be bound to an unjustified child support obligation. Consulting with a qualified child support lawyer can provide valuable guidance in understanding your rights and obligations. You can also seek a child support modification in the future if a change in your circumstances or those of your spouse or child warrants it.
The Right to Information about Your Custody and Support Orders
Many parents find the court process daunting, and records can get lost over time. If you need help understanding your court-ordered rights and obligations, you are entitled to complete access to the information regarding your child custody or child support case. This includes:
- The right to be treated with respect by court personnel and employees of the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS)
- The right to receive up-to-date information about your child support payments (by calling the New Jersey Child Support Hotline at 1-877-NJKIDS1)
- The right to seek review of court and DHS decisions that negatively impact your finances or your relationship with your children.
In addition to your rights, including the right to hire an attorney to advocate on your behalf in child custody, visitation and support issues, you also have specific duties, responsibilities and obligations to live up to as discussed in the following section.
Responsibilities of a Non-Custodial Father
You have legal obligations as a non-custodial father. If you run afoul of these obligations, it will not only negatively affect you, but can impact the bond between you and your child as well. The other parent may also try to use noncompliance to their advantage.
Obligation to Comply with Custody and Child Support Orders
Unless and until you file a successful appeal or petition for modification, you are bound by the terms of your custody and child support orders. If you violate these orders (e.g., by not paying child support or not returning your children to their mother on time), you could face severe judicial penalties. You could also find yourself on the other end of a custody modification request if you do not show up for visitation as described in the parenting time plan, not to mention the effects no-show parents have on their children.
Obligation to Stay in Touch With the Court and DHS
As a non-custodial father, there are various times at which you may be required to appear in court, respond to requests for information, or affirmatively disclose information to the court or DHS. You need to meet these obligations promptly in order to ensure that your parental rights remain secure.
Obligation to Submit to Paternity Testing
If you were not married to your child’s mother on the date of your child’s birth and your name is not on the birth certificate, or if there is a dispute regarding your parentage as the father, you may be required to submit to a paternity test in order to establish your legal rights. You can voluntarily take a test if needed or it may be court-ordered, depending on the situation. If you do not comply with the test, you could lose the right to see your child.
Questions about Non-Custodial Father’s Legal Obligations and Rights? Reach Out to Our Experienced New Jersey Family Law Firm Today
If you have questions about your rights as a non-custodial father in New Jersey, our law firm of [MFR] Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers is here to answer them. Once we understand all the facts of your situation, we can advise you about your rights and obligations related to custody and visitation, child support and establishing paternity so that you can be a strong and influential part of your child’s life. We encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. To arrange a time to speak with an experienced Hackensack family law attorney, please call (201) 880-9770 today. We are powerful advocates for fathers’ rights in custody situations.