If you and your child's mother are married and you are at the hospital when your baby is born, you are automatically recognized as your child's father under New Jersey law. If, however, you and your child's mother are not married and the two of you do not sign a Certificate of Parentage at the time of birth, you will have to take some extra steps to be legally acknowledged as the father of your son or daughter.
As explained by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, the state has established what it calls the Paternity Opportunity Program to facilitate the legal establishment of parental rights for dads. This may be done by genetic testing but that is not always required. If you and the mother both sign a Certificate of Parentage even once the baby has been taken home, you can be seen as the legal father. However, this form may be disputed within 60 days of being signed.
Paternity is important so that your child has access to your Social Security and other survivor's benefits designed for one's children. It also can allow you to receive proper parenting time if you do not live with the mother of the child. Paternity may also contribute to child support orders.
If you would like to learn more about how you can establish your legal rights as your child's father, please feel free to visit the paternity and parental relationship page of our New Jersey family law and child support website.