When it comes to a child’s right to have the care and support of both parents, New Jersey family law does not discriminate between married and unmarried parents on matters of child custody and child support. The differences between how unmarried parents and divorced parents go about establishing support and custody orders are, for the most part, procedural. For example, unmarried parents file custody and support claims with NJ’s Non-Dissolution Unit, which handles matters relating to custody, parenting time, paternity, child support, spousal support, modifications of existing orders, and emancipation for unmarried parties or for married couples who have not yet filed for a divorce.
In cases where paternity of a child is questioned or uncertain, the state has in place a process for determining legal paternity. Once paternity is in place, custody and visitation rights can be decided. The standards of determining custody in New Jersey is based on creating a custody arrangement and parenting time plan that are in the best interest of the child. When calculating support, the courts apply the NJ Child Support Guidelines. Like married/divorced parents, unmarried parents may consider mediation and other methods of alternative dispute resolution to arrive at custody and support agreements.
Bari Zell-Weinberger is a Certified New Jersey divorce lawyer and partner with the firm of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group, LLC. in Parsippany, New Jersey, where she exclusively practices family and matrimonial law.