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Rules unwed fathers should know

Unwed fathers in New Jersey have an uphill battle when it comes to asserting their rights to their children. Whether dealing with child custody or child support matters, unwed fathers should learn about their rights to protect their legal interests.

For example, unwed fathers can get credit for the support that they provide their children before an official child support order is issued. However, fathers have to be able to prove that they provided this support. By keeping records and being organized, fathers can receive credit for this period. However, if a father provides additional support after satisfying the court agreement, this other amount is treated as a gift. Another important lesson for fathers is that fathers can be pursued by the state if the child's mother seeks assistance from the government. When a mother applies for food stamps or Medicaid, the application usually requires the father's identity to be disclosed even if the mother does not wish to pursue action. A state can pursue action even if the mother and father had an agreement regarding child support between them.

Similarly, former couples may make agreements regarding a father's time with the child, but these agreements will only work if both people stick to them. Instead, a father should file a petition to establish his rights and his paternity. Otherwise, he is at the mercy of the mother's mood and goodwill. Even if a father pays child support or signed the birth certificate, he does not have any inherent rights. He has to pursue a paternity action first so that the court can adjudicate paternity.

New Jersey family law attorneys may assist unwed fathers. They may help establish paternity or custodial rights in a court of law.

Source: ABC Action News, "Five important things that unwed fathers need to know", Yvette Harrell, October 08, 2013

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