New Jersey Family Law Attorneys for Unmarried Parents
Need To Enforce the Other Parent’s Obligations,, Or Modify a Custody or Support Award? Our Bergen County, NJ Law Firm Is Here to Help.
For unmarried parents, child support and child custody matters present many important and unique challenges. Whether you need to establish your parental rights with respect to a newborn child, or you are leaving a long-term non-marital relationship and have minor children, ensuring that you can stay involved in your children’s lives is understandably high on your list of priorities.
Located in southern Bergen County, Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, has particular experience working with all kinds of clients, including high-net-worth clients who also may commute across the river into New York City.
With decades of family law experience, our legal team is attuned to the often-complex issues facing unmarried parents, and we are committed to providing the caring, compassionate, and personalized representation our clients expect and deserve. To arrange a time to speak with us, call (201) 880-9770.
Why Choose Us? We Have the Strong Legal Proficiency Needed To Deliver Desired Outcomes.
New Jersey family lawyer and firm founder Carrie S. Schultz and her attorney team are dedicated to protecting the rights of unmarried parents through honest and strategic legal guidance. We practice exclusively in child custody, child support and other family law issues. This singular focus allows us in-depth knowledge of relevant laws, courts and happenings in family law and provides us the advanced legal proficiency needed to get the best possible outcomes for clients. Still not sure about us? See what past clients have to say.
We know that choosing the right lawyer is something that must be done with careful consideration. Here are some other reasons to consider our law firm:
- We limit the number of cases we take on to provide personalized attention to every client.
- We have a strong reputation for achieving desired results in as non-adversarial a way as possible.
- We are quick to respond to client inquiries and concerns—in most cases, you’ll hear from us within 24 to 48 business hours.
- Our lawyers are highly recognized in the legal community for their professionalism and skill.
- Our family law firm has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
To learn more about we can help you in your particular case, give us a call by dialing (201) 880-9770.
How We Can Help–We Will Look Out for Your Interests And Your Children’s Interests From Start To Finish
It is understandable that you may be anxious as an unmarried father. You may not understand what rights you have, or what steps you can take to help ensure your right to be a part of your child’s life. We can help you by:
- Counseling you about establishing parentage, if not already established
- Representing your rights in custody and parenting time decisions
- Ensuring you have an objectively fair parenting time schedule that promotes the best interest of the children
- Advocating for a fair payment amount if you will be paying child support.
If you already have custody or parenting time orders in place that are not being adhered to by the other parent, we will stand up vigorously to have orders enforced and have the Mother of your child get into compliance. If you need a child support or custody/parenting time order modified because your circumstances or those of your child or the other parent have changed, we can assist you with that, too, or defend you against an order modification, depending on the circumstances.
In short, we can advise you every step of the way in child custody, parenting time and child support matters. We will provide top-quality legal guidance intended to reduce your stress and protect the interests of you and your child.
Establishing Parentage In New Jersey
As an unmarried father, before you can obtain custody or parenting time with your child, you must establish that you are the child’s biological father. There are several ways to do this in New Jersey.
You and the unmarried mother of the child can fill out a Certificate of Parentage at the time of the child’s birth. Then, your name will be placed on the birth certificate. That will give you a presumption of parentage.
If you and your child’s other parent did not complete a Certificate of Parentage, there are other ways to establish paternity. As co-parents, you can agree that you are the father, or you can agree to take a genetic test. If there is a disagreement, either parent can take the other to court and ask the judge to require you or the other party to submit to genetic testing.
Child Custody for Unmarried Parents
In custody matters, the New Jersey courts assess numerous factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Under NJ Law, neither parent is supposed to have a greater entitlement to their child in either decision making or physical time with the child or children. . A judge will not assume a child’s mother is more equipped to parent full-time than a father.
While the parents’ wishes and those of the child (once they reach “sufficient age and capacity to reason”) are relevant to custody decisions, neither is determinative in reaching a child custody award. New Jersey custody laws require the family court to determine what is in the best interests of the child first, then order an arrangement that supports the child’s welfare. This often leads to a joint custody arrangement, but it can also lead to sole custody.
Our attorneys work to resolve child custody issues for unmarried parents in NJ. Call us for help at (201) 880-9770.
Child Support for Unmarried Parents
Child support matters, on the other hand, usually are determined first by calculating and applying the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, although there are exceptions where the guidelines may be inapplicable. What is critical in any matter is ensuring that any child support calculation is done correctly, using the appropriate incomes (or imputed incomes) and financial circumstances of the parties.
If you are concerned the other parent is not being honest about their income, which would impact child support calculations, talk with your attorney right away. Usually, the attorneys can and will calculate child support for you and attempt to have the other side agree. If an agreement cannot be reached, then, of course, either party may seek the assistance of a judge.
Reaching An Amicable Decision Between Unmarried Parents
While litigation is always a possibility, it might be wise to first try to resolve differences without the court’s involvement. There are a number of strategies for negotiating parenting arrangements and financial support obligations. Parents who commit themselves to the process can often save significant time and money while limiting the stress placed on themselves and their children. At Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, we emphasize pursuing amicable, yet cost-effective solutions. We work closely with our clients to secure their desired rights as quickly as possible.
Non-Dissolution Proceedings for Non-Married Parents
New Jersey family law attorneys can guide you through child custody, visitation, and child support matters even if you are not married. This is called non-dissolution proceedings and happens under the “FD” Docket in the New Jersey Courthouse.
Unmarried parents are no less dedicated to their children than married couples; and, of course, navigating parenthood, if there are two different households, presents unique challenges. But nowadays there are plenty of people living together with children and simply deciding not to get married officially.
If you have a child with another person and are not married, but the relationship has in fact ended, you and your child’s other parent have to figure out how to divide your child’s time, make sure your child has everything they need, and share the financial responsibilities equitably.
The age of your child doesn’t matter. You and the other parent have to eventually come to an understanding as to the custody and visitation arrangement – and be willing to put that down in detail on paper and sign it. You both also have to discuss the appropriate amount of child support, which is dependent, in part, on the visitation schedule. A lot of times, especially when the relationship first ends, you and the other parent are at odds over almost everything.
At Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, we are experienced in representing unmarried parents in paternity, child custody, visitation, and child support matters in New Jersey’s non-dissolution, or FD, proceedings.
What Are Non-Dissolution Proceedings?
Non-dissolution proceedings are part of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part. Non-dissolution proceedings, which are docketed as “FD,” are family law matters for co-parents who are not getting a divorce (divorce is a dissolution of marriage). Usually, co-parents who were never married find themselves in “FD” proceedings to determine child custody, parenting time (visitation), and child support.
In some circumstances, individuals who are still married and have not yet filed for divorce will go through non-dissolution proceedings just to seek temporary financial support. Also, adult siblings and grandparents can file non-dissolution cases for custody, visitation, or child support.
Family Law Issues Handled in FD Proceedings
Fathers have rights and responsibilities toward their children, just like mothers. But their natural and legal connection to a child is less obvious. We help fathers establish their relationship with their children through legal proceedings and genetic testing – or DNA testing.
If your name isn’t already on the child’s birth certificate – or even if it is, but you question whether or not you are the father – then we must (and will want to) request a DNA test before you obligate yourself to a child support order. The appropriate time to request a DNA test is early on in the case; if you do not request one, your silence can be perceived as an admission that you are the other parent and are therefore obligated to that child financially.
So, it is very important that if you question at all whether or not you are the father, find out by doing a DNA test immediately. If the other parent is uncooperative about getting tested, then speak to an attorney about having the judge order a DNA test.
Physical Child Custody – Residential Custody & Visitation
Unmarried parents often disagree on the best custody arrangement for their child. Fathers are afraid of being given too little time with their children, especially when the mother is withholding the visitation for no legitimate reason.
When you and your co-parent can’t agree, then a judge will ultimately determine a physical custody and parenting time arrangement that’s in the best interests of the child. Usually attorneys can help have this conversation before a court ever gets involved and will try to work out a mutually acceptable arrangement between you and the other parent before resorting to Court action. We will then put it down in an agreement for both parties to sign.
Legal Child Custody
Legal custody of a child refers to which parent can make significant and major decisions for the child, including concerning their health, education, and general welfare. Custody arrangements are always governed by the child’s best interests. However, with legal custody (vs. residential custody), both parties must show that they can somewhat effectively co-parent with the other.
When one parent cannot co-parent with the other, then perhaps a joint legal custody arrangement won’t work, and an alternative arrangement will need to be discussed. Oftentimes we see this when the parties are not able to communicate, or one parent completely deletes the other parent from the child’s life. Doing that may be grounds for that parent to lose legal custody. The particular behaviors of you and the other parent are important, and you should discuss this in detail with your attorney.
Child support is a legal matter that is separate from child custody or visitation, although both ultimately impact the amount of child support. For most people, New Jersey child support is determined based on a calculator called the New Jersey Child Support Guideline Worksheet.
This worksheet is based upon statutory criteria which considers the number of children, the number of overnights (or 12-hour periods for each parent), the gross incomes of each parent, alimony, health insurance, childcare, and other factors. An experienced family law attorney makes sure the calculation is accurate.
Most people, including some court staff, get this wrong; it would be a shame to be paying too much simply because you didn’t have an experienced attorney review it. Also, just because the other parent may not be earning an income, or they are earning less than what they used to or are capable of, this doesn’t necessarily mean that is the end of the conversation. Discuss with your attorney a legal concept called “imputation of income”– which could apply to both you and the other parent.
Don’t Expect to See A Judge Right Away
To reduce the burden on the courts, you might be required to go through mediation or a settlement conference first. Mediation is a confidential, out-of-court process during which you and your co-parent will attempt to negotiate parenting time and other issues. A settlement conference is similar, but most times it includes the lawyers doing the negotiation with or without the mediator’s being included.
Other Issues Handled in FD Proceedings
While most FD proceedings deal with custody, visitation, and child support, you might bring other disputes there, such as the enforcement of non-marital financial support agreements and dividing property purchased during cohabitation. If you have a financial conflict with a previous romantic partner, talk with our family law attorneys about how to proceed.
Non-Dissolution Matters Are Assumed to Be Simple, Quick
An issue that arises under the FD docket in New Jersey is expected to proceed in a summary fashion. This means that they are matters that are generally more straightforward and could be handled more quickly, without in-depth investigations or hearings.
However, some FD cases are just as contentious as divorce cases. If your matter isn’t straightforward, then it’s critical for you to work with a New Jersey family law attorney who will mark your non-dissolution action as complex. This way, the court is told right away that your matter needs more attention, such as discovery, experts, and oral arguments.
You should not file your matter on the non-dissolution docket if:
- You are divorced or have filed for divorce
- You want to appeal a court decision.
Our attorneys can advise you throughout the process. Get help today by reaching out to our law firm.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to hire a lawyer to file a non-dissolution case?
You do not have to hire a lawyer, but you stand a better chance of getting the outcome you want and need with skilled legal help from an experienced New Jersey family attorney. You also will want to make sure you are doing everything right because once an Order is issued in your. Matter it may become way more difficult to fix or undo it, costing you more in time and legal fees in the long run.
How will a men’s rights law firm help me?
We will go strongly to bat for you as a father in custody and support matters. This does not mean we are a woman-hating law firm—our founder is a woman. Rather, we have a special focus on protecting men’s rights in family law issues.
How long do non-dissolution proceedings for unmarried parents take?
That depends on many factors, including how agreeable parents are and how crowded the court schedules are. Our attorneys can advise you of a possible time frame based on your situation.
Can the other parent and I simply agree on custody and support between ourselves?
Yes—you can agree on custody and support terms between yourselves. However, it would be best if you had your agreement documented and approved by the court so it is legally enforceable.
Enforcing Child Custody or Child Support Awards
If you have existing child custody or child support orders and your co-parent is failing to meet his or her obligations, our family lawyers can assist you in enforcing the terms of the court order.
Parents have several remedies available when their co-parents violate custody and support orders, and our attorneys can take swift and aggressive action to protect their legal rights.
We may be able to seek garnishment of the other parent’s salary or wages, enjoin the parent from relocating your child out of state, or take other legal action to enforce the terms of your parenting plan or child support payment schedule.
Modifying A Child Custody or Child Support Court Order
If you are unable to make your child support payments, or your current custody arrangement no longer works for you or the child, for whatever reason, our attorneys can assist you in seeking an order for modification. The New Jersey family law courts will grant modifications only if you have a significant change in circumstances.
Our attorneys are experienced in demonstrating that events in our clients’ personal and professional lives may warrant revisiting their original custody and support orders. If your former partner has filed a request for modification, we can represent you in seeking to preserve your existing rights or modify it to something else you may want.
Talk To an Experienced Unmarried Parents’ Rights Lawyer in Bergen County, NJ
To speak with one of our New Jersey family law attorneys for unmarried parents about your situation, contact Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC. Our law offices offer an initial case evaluation, during which we will help you understand your situation and options for securing, enforcing or modifying support, custody, or visitation.
To schedule an appointment with an unmarried parents’ rights lawyer at our offices in Bergen County, New Jersey, please call (201) 880-9770 or contact us online today.