Rights for Fathers In and Out of Wedlock

Expanding your family is an exciting time. Adding a new baby to your family brings lots of changes and many new responsibilities and rights for both parents. There can be a lot of confusion about what kinds of rights and responsibilities the father has with regard to the child in the event the relationship falls apart. This can become even more complicated where the parents are not married to each other.

When the parents are married to each other, the law presumes that the husband is the child’s father. A legal presumption such as this means that the father is viewed as the father by the law unless and until it is proven otherwise. The husband of the mother does not have to take extra steps to make sure that he is legally presumed to be the father or to establish himself as the father. This same legal presumption applies where a father was married to the mother, but the marriage ended (either by death or divorce) no more than 300 days before the child’s birth.

If the parents are not married to each other, this is not the case. If the parents are not married to each other, the father may establish paternity in a couple of different ways. The easiest way to do so is for the father and the mother to both execute a Certificate of Parentage (COP) and file it with the state Registrar. Either parent may also bring a suit in court to declare a father as the legal parent of the child. In that case, a court will require genetic testing be performed to confirm the child’s parentage unless both parties waive the test.

Once paternity has been established, whether that is through a presumption, a COP, or a court order, fathers have the same types of rights to their children regardless of marriage. That is to say, they may petition for custody and visitation, may have a child support order entered for or against them, may need to request permission from the court to relocate out of state with the child, or any of the other types of cases involving the children. The law makes no distinction in the types of parental rights enjoyed by fathers based on whether the father was ever married to the child’s mother.

Understanding issues involving parental rights requires an experienced team working on your side. you understand your parental rights and responsibilities. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 for an appointment.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google