Mothers Fail to Pay Child Support at a Higher Rate than Fathers

When parents are not married, there could be more legal complications regarding children if they split up, or if the parents were never together as a couple in the first place. This is why the New Jersey Court’s have a whole separate part of the Courthouse to assist and help those father’s who were never married to the other parent.  Unmarried fathers who wish to be part of their children’s lives may first need to take steps to establish that they are indeed the child’s biological father in order to have rights when it comes to child custody and visitation and to ensure that they are the biological father before a discussion about child support obligations of both parents ensues.


Married fathers and mothers who are divorcing start out on equal footing when it comes to physical and legal custody under state law because there is a presumption of parentage when married. New Jersey law does not discriminate against either parent based on their gender when dealing with custody rulings.

However, for unmarried fathers the situation is different. Unless the unmarried father has established paternity of the child, or is listed on the birth certificate already, he has no legal right to custody. He does not even have the right to see his child if the mother denies it. For this reason, 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, whether that be with a paternity test or evidence of his name on a birth certificate, before he can explore his options and entitlement with child custody and visitation. It’s often advisable to consult with a child custody lawyer to understand the legal steps involved in this process and to protect your parental rights.

There are two ways in in which paternity can be established, including:

  • Voluntary acknowledgement by signing a certificate of parentage (CoP) —  This document is typically signed at the hospital after the child is born. It can also be signed at a later time.
  • Genetic testing — To establish their rights, unmarried fathers can voluntarily consent to genetic testing. It can also be ordered by the court if parentage is being disputed.

Once an unmarried father establishes paternity, he has the legal right to pursue custody, visitation, and parenting time arrangements.  With that being said, once paternity is established, a conversation about  child support will be necessary and establishing the obligations of both Mother and Father to pay to help support the child.


Custody, visitation, and parenting time are aspects of unmarried parenthood that are decided very similarly to divorce proceedings, and they’re always adjusted toward the child’s best interests. This essentially will include the child’s mental, physical, and emotional welfare. When an unmarried father has established paternity, like married fathers, he starts out on the same level playing field as the mother when it comes to who gets custody of a child.

New Jersey courts will evaluate several factors as described in N.J.S.A 9:2-4 when they are determining the overall best interests of the child to make custody determinations. These factors include 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 each parent’s home environment
  • The desire to maintain healthy parent-child and sibling relationships
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • The child’s physical safety
  • Each parent’s work responsibilities and schedules
  • Any other relevant concern the court deems relevant.

Once the factors have been evaluated, there are various custody arrangements that could be ordered. An unmarried father could share legal custody with the mother, meaning he has the same authority as the mother to make important and major decisions for the child, and have visitation rights. Or the father could become the custodial parent, which is the parent the child lives with more often. Parents can also come to agreement between themselves as to custody rather than having the court decide.


Unmarried parents (both Mother and Father) must always uphold their legal responsibility to support their children financially. Once paternity of the father is established, both parents, with the assistance of a qualified child support lawyer, have the legal right to seek child support payments from the other. How child support is determined will largely depend upon the custody and visitation arrangements and the financial situations of both parents.

New Jersey child support guidelines are the starting point for determining child support. Factors in determining support include:

  • Both parents’ net incomes
  • Children’s ages
  • The number of children each parent has
  • Overnight parenting time distribution
  • Child support obligations from other relationships/marriages and alimony from prior marriages
  • Both parents’ earning potential
  • If applicable, the child’s uninsured medical needs and other special needs.

As with custody arrangements, you and the other parent can always work to come up with your own support plans to be reviewed by the court, rather than having a judge decide for you. An experienced family lawyer may be able to help you negotiate an agreement.


Parents, whether they were never married or were divorced, cannot move their minor children 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’s 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.


It’s most often ideal for unmarried parents to be able to come to agreement on issues of custody, parenting time, and child support. At [MFR] Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers, we can advocate for your rights as an unmarried father and work to try and negotiate an agreement that is in your interests and that of your children. We are passionate about protecting fathers and their relationships with their kids.

If you are an unmarried father who wants to protect your rights when it comes to being a strong part of your child’s life, call us at (201) 880-9770 to arrange a confidential case evaluation. Once we understand your situation, we will help you take the necessary steps towards upholding your legal rights as a father.

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