Families today aren’t the typical, status-quo families from years past, which is a testament to the beauty and diversity of modern life. Today one-in-four U.S. parents are unmarried, and with this increase in unmarried parents comes more legal complications.
Unmarried parents must be able to confidently face issues like child support, child custody and visitation times in what is referred to as “non-dissolution cases”. These proceedings are very similar to divorce in that one of the parental parties must file an official complaint within the court.
If unmarried parents can’t come to terms within a consent conference, the non-dissolution case will appear before a judge. This is when both parental parties will be subject to custody evaluations and a thorough proceeding that many times isn’t necessary.
It’s ideal for unmarried couples to come up with a cohabitation agreement that sets forth their decisions on financial support, property division, parenting time and custody. On this page, we’re going to discuss some of the rights that unmarried fathers have when it comes to seeking child support, custody and much more in New Jersey.
Our team of experienced family law specialists has helped countless unmarried fathers when it comes to protecting their rights and giving them the freedoms they deserve to have with their children. If you or a loved one is an unmarried father who is struggling with their legal options, feel free to call us at 201-880-9772 or request an online appointment so we can get a better understanding of your situation and help you take the necessary initial steps towards upholding your legal rights.
Do Unmarried Fathers Have a Disadvantage?
New Jersey isn’t supposed to discriminate anyone based on their gender while dealing with custody rulings, and both fathers and mothers have equal rights when it comes to physical and legal custody under state law.
However, there’s a large caveat to New Jersey’s laws when it comes to unmarried fathers that married fathers don’t ever have to consider: paternity establishment. When unmarried couples have children in New Jersey, it’s 100% necessary for the unmarried father to legally establish himself as the child’s father before he can explore his options with child custody.
There are two ways in which paternity can be established, including:
- Completing a Certificate of Parentage (COP) — It’s impossible for an unmarried father to appear on a child’s birth certificate until this document is initially completed.
- Genetic testing — This can be either ordered by a judge or be voluntary.
Once an unmarried father is able to establish their paternity, he will have a legal right to seek out many desirable aspects of parenthood like custody, visitation, parenting time, etc. This will also allow the child’s mother the legal grounds to ask for child support payments.
Custody, Visitation and Parenting Time
Custody, visitation and parenting time are aspects of unmarried parenthood that are decided very similar to divorce proceedings, and they’re always adjusted towards the child’s best interest. This essentially will include the child’s mental, physical and emotional welfare.
New Jersey courts will evaluate several factors when they are determining the overall best interest of the child, including the following:
- Each parent’s level of fitness.
- The proximity of the homes of each parent.
- The child’s schooling location.
- The child’s preference, if they are of an appropriate age.
- Any applicable special needs of the child.
- The stability of the home environment pertaining to each parent.
- The desire to maintain healthy parent-child and sibling relationships.
- Any history of domestic violence associated with each parent.
- The child’s physical safety, as well as the safety of the parents.
- The overall responsibilities and work hours associated with each parent.
- Any other relevant concern deemed by the court.
The “child’s best interest” is always the top priority within New Jersey courts, regardless of the wishes of both parents and grandparents.
Unmarried parents must always uphold their legal responsibility to support their children financially, and once paternity is established both parties have the legal right to seek child support payments from one another. This is will largely depend upon the couple’s financial situation.
New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines are typically how child support amounts are determined, and there are several factors that dictate this type of arrangement, including:
- Both parents’ net income
- The age of their children
- The number of children each parent has
- Overnight parenting time distribution
- Any information pertaining to child support payments and alimony from prior marriages
- Both parents’ earning potential
- If applicable, the child’s uninsured medical needs and other special needs
It’s also important to know that parents can come up with their own alternative plans for child support that may better support a child’s needs, which will always require the assistance of legal experts.
Can Unmarried Fathers Move Out-of-State?
Unmarried parents and their children shouldn’t move out-of-state without receiving:
- The other parent’s consent
- A court order that permits parental relocation
This type of court order must be obtained through a parent filing a motion within the court. A judge will then determine the move’s intentions and how it impacts the non-custodial parent-child relationship.
You should always contact a New Jersey family lawyer when considering any type of significant move because it’s crucial to not disobey any existing custody order in any way.
Speak with a Family Law Specialist in Hackensack, New Jersey
At MR. Men’s Rights Divorce, we remain passionate about protecting fathers and their relationships with their children throughout the divorce and non-dissolution processes.
If you are an unmarried father and would like to speak to an attorney, feel free to call us at (201) 880-9770 or reach out to us online for a confidential initial consultation.