Frequently, it first goes to litigation. With unwed parents, you have a different dynamic than you do with divorced parents. The reason being is that, sometimes, unwed parents may not have even been in a relationship with each other; they’ve never discussed as to how would they make major decisions such as choosing a religion, choosing a school, or choosing a pediatrician. All of these issues frequently surprise people.
However, there is mechanism for doing it, and they would file an application with the court. It’s under a different docket and a different judge generally decides it – although depending upon the county in which they file. They would then ask for child support, and the child support is determined the exact same way as it would be for children of married parents, which is through the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. It’s a formula: it includes each parent’s income, the number of children, the cost of medical insurance and whatnot, as well as the parenting schedule.
Custody and a parenting time schedule is frequently determined at mediation, which frequently will occur on the day of the court date. If it is not determined then, either it will be sent to an expert or the court will determine an interim schedule until the parents can either get before an expert or decide by themselves. The difference with unwed parents is that the court has more leeway with regards to the manner of which they will determine the custody and the parenting time of this child as well as the visitation schedule. The courts frequently take a more hands-on approach with regards to these cases.
Alison C. Leslie, Esq. practices family law exclusively in her Morristown, NJ offices, where she offers her clients the individualized attention of a solo practitioner with the experience of a larger firm.