As an unmarried parent in New Jersey, learning about your legal rights can be a challenge. While there is plenty of information available to married parents who have decided to file for divorce, there is comparatively little information available to unmarried parents who have decided to separate.
This two-part Guide to Separation for Unmarried Parents in New Jersey provides an overview of five key aspects of the separation process. Here in Part 1, we cover the legal mechanism for separating, paternity-related considerations, and how child support is calculated under New Jersey law.
Filing a “Non-Dissolution” Case in New Jersey State Court
As an unmarried parent, you cannot file for divorce; however, you must still initiate a formal legal proceeding to establish child support and child custody. The form used to do so is the Non-Divorce Application for Custody, Child/Spousal Support or Parenting Time (Visitation) - Non-dissolution "FD" Case.
When filing this form, it is important to be as careful and as thorough as possible. It is also important to understand that filing this form is just the start of the process. To finalize the process, you and your children’s other parent will need to establish child support and a parenting plan whether you do so amicably or with the help of the New Jersey courts.
Establishing Paternity (if Necessary)
In some cases, it will be necessary to establish paternity before moving on to child support and child custody. If you and your child’s other parent have not dealt with paternity previously, then you will need to do so now. While a presumption of paternity arises in the marriage context, there is no such presumption for unmarried parents—even if they have lived together for years.
Calculating Child Support
Calculating child support is similar for both married and unmarried parents. New Jersey law requires all parents to support their children financially—and the parents’ marital status is not a factor.
When calculating child support in New Jersey, the primary focus is on the parents’ respective income levels. Each parent must disclose his or her income from all sources. The determination of who pays (and how much he or she has to pay) is based mainly upon the parties’ earning disparity and respective overnight custody rights. However, child-related expenses for health insurance and child care are relevant factors as well, and, to ensure an accurate child support calculation, it is important for each parent to work with his or her own New Jersey family lawyer.
In Part 2 of our Guide to Separation for Unmarried Parents in New Jersey, we will address establishing a post-separation parenting plan and dealing with conflict during (and after) the separation process.
Speak with a New Jersey Family Lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.
Our New Jersey family lawyers represent unmarried parents statewide during and after their separations. If you have questions about the process, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a confidential initial consultation at a time and location that are convenient for you, please call 877-435-6371 or contact us online today.