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Do unmarried parents have custody rights in New Jersey?

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Modern families come in all shapes and sizes, and most parents today put off getting married until they are sure of the decision. However, one misconception that plagues most unwed parents is that they don’t have the same custody rights as parents who are married. This is, of course, untrue. New Jersey does not practice any form of discrimination between married and unmarried parents, which means that the rights of the parents are basically the same.

What are some of the rights of unwed parents?

As a parent, you have certain rights that are recognized by law. Some of these are as follows:

  1. Child custody and visitation: When a couple gets divorced, as long as both parents are deemed fit to be in the child’s life, they both are allowed to visit the child and spend time with him/her. The same holds true for unwed parents too. You can spend as much time as you want with your child as long as you and your co-parent are able to establish mutually beneficial timelines and boundaries. Additionally, if you and your co-parent do not get along, or you feel that the co-parent may not be a good influence in the child’s life, then you can petition at the court for joint custody, sole custody and visitation. The court can also help with any parental alienation issues that you may be feeling. Additionally, if your co-parent is moving away due to work or any other reason, the courts can help with relocation or even ask the person not to leave the state.
  2. Paternity: It’s important to understand that if an unwed woman gives birth to a child, the man will not be able to enjoy parental rights until the paternity has been established. More often than not, both parents do have clarity on the paternity however, in cases where the same is unclear; the court can order mandatory genetic testing if you petition for the same. In cases where the parents are sure of the paternity, a test is not required – the male generally accepts the responsibility of co-parenting and does not need a legal document to back it up (apart from having his name on the birth certificate of the child).
  3. Child support: Child support is an important issue when couples get divorced; however, what most people do not realize is that it’s an equally important issue for unwed parents. Raising a child can be extremely expensive, and having adequate child support is an extremely important factor when it comes to ensuring your child has everything he/she needs.If you have recently found out that you are pregnant, or have already given birth to a child, it’s important to start considering these issues.

If you have been experiencing problems with your partner, you can speak with child custody lawyers who can help you navigate the situation even when you’re unwed.

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