It’s easy enough to identify a child’s birth mother, but what about paternity? A child born to parents not married to each other is considered not to have a legal father, unless the biological father signs an ‘Acknowledgement of Paternity.’ This is usually done at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth.
So, what exactly happens?
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) is a legal process through whichpaternity, or legal fatherhood, can be established. The father declares himself to be the child’s father, entering an ‘Order of Filiation’ which essentially is a court order declaring legal parenthood. A petition can be filed in Family Court seeking the same.
Paternity establishment ultimately is just the process of determining the legal father of a child. In New York, unmarried parents can establish paternity by [A.] signing a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form; or [B.]by petitioning a court to determine paternity. The Acknowledgement of Paternity form is available from hospitals, local district child support offices, and local birth registrars.
Under New York State law, both parents must financially support their child until the child turns 21 years old. Child supportalso includes providing health insurance coverage until the child turns 21 years old.
If the child is under 21 and married, self-supporting, or in the military then the child is emancipated and the parents don’t have to support the child.
In general, the custodial parent can get child support from the other parent, the non-custodial parent. The custodial parent is the parent who has physical custody of the child. This means that the child lives with this parent most of the time.
What are child support services? Child supportservices include: locating the parent who has a duty to support your child(ren), legally determining if a person is the biological parent of your child, obtaining an order for child support and medical support services (if available at a reasonable cost), collecting support payments, keeping accurate records of payments and enforcing the support order.
Who provides these services? In New Jersey, the Department of Human Services (DHS) – Division of Family Development (DFD) – Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) (the State Title IV-D agency), County Welfare Agencies (CWA), the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the County Family Divisions of the Superior Court, and County Probation Division work together to provide support services to your family.
What does the Office of Child Support Services do? The DFD/OCSS is responsible for ensuring that the state’s child support program is operated properly, efficiently and effectively, and that all of its agents are in compliance with all aspects of the Federal Law.
What does the County Welfare Agency Child Support Unit do? The CWA locates obligors and files non-support complaints on active Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) with the Family Division.
Child support usually must be paid by the noncustodial parent when the child is with the noncustodial parent for summer vacations or long holiday breaks. Courts reason that many major expenses for the benefit of the child such as rent, mortgage, utilities, clothes, and insurance have to be paid whether the child is with the custodial parent or not. So usually a full child support payment is due, even if the child is with the noncustodial parent.
On the other hand, the parties themselves (or the court) are free to set payments in different amounts during vacation periods when the child is with the noncustodial parent. The lower amount for vacation periods with the noncustodial parent might reflect savings to the custodial parent for food expenses or child care.
A related issue may arise if the noncustodial parent wants to reduce child support payments to the custodial parent because the noncustodial parent has spent money on the child, such as for clothes or extracurricular activities. However, that is almost never a basis for reducing child support payments to the custodial parent, unless the parties agreed otherwise.
Court orders or divorce settlements almost always provide that child support is to be paid in specific dollar amounts from one parent to the other. Courts do not want the complications of trying to sort out whether the parties on a particular occasion agreed to an alternative way of making child support payments. Courts also do not want the noncustodial parent unilaterally changing the method of paying child support and potentially interfering with the budget planning of the custodial parent.
If the noncustodial parent wants to pay for clothes or extracurricular activities of the child, that is fine (and nice for the child), but the court will treat such payments as gifts to the child, not as part of the noncustodial parent’s support obligation.
If you are an applicant/recipient of Temporary Assistance for the child, or Medicaid for yourself and the child, or your child is in Title IV-E Foster Care, you are required to assign to the social services district rights you have to support on your own behalf and any rights to child support on behalf of any family member for whom you are applying for, or receiving assistance. For Medicaid applicants/recipients, this assignment is limited to medical support only. When applying for, or receiving Temporary Assistance, your assignment of support rights is limited to support that accrues during the period that you or the family member receives assistance. You are required to assign these support rights and, unless you claim good cause or domestic violence for not doing so, cooperate with the Child SupportEnforcement Unit to:
Any parent or non-parent caregiver acting as guardian of at least one child under the age of 21 is eligible to apply for child support services. Such person is considered the custodial parent in the child support case. If you are applying for, or receiving, Temporary Assistance (officially termed “Family Assistance” or “Safety Net Assistance”) for the child, child support services may be provided to you based on your application for this program. Child support services may also be provided if you are applying for Medicaid for yourself and the child and you complete an application/referral for child support services. Child support services will continue after you stop receiving Temporary Assistance or Medicaid unless you request your child support case be closed. Child support services are also provided for a child placed in foster care and may continue after the foster care placement ends. If the child returns to you after being discharged from foster care, child support services will continue unless you request otherwise. A child under the age of 21 or a non-custodial parent or putative (alleged) father may also apply or be eligible for child support services.
Temporary child support is based upon the respective incomes of the parties as adjusted by any temporary maintenance. If temporary maintenance is to be paid to a party, then, for the purpose of computing child support, the maintenance paid reduces the income of the payor and increases by the same amount the income of the payee. That is why temporary maintenance is computed before temporary child support.
The responsibilities of a stepparent depend on state law. A stepparent usually is not required to pay child support for a spouse’s child from another marriage, unless the stepparent has adopted the child. Until then, the child’s biological parents are liable for the child’s support. Some states, however, make stepparents liable for the stepchild’s support as long as the stepparent and stepchild are living together.
A stepparent who does not adopt a spouse’s child normally may not claim custody of the child if the marriage ends in divorce, although some states allow a stepparent to seek visitation.
A stepchild usually does not share in the estate of a stepparent, unless the stepparent has provided for the stepchild in a will. However, an unmarried stepchild under eighteen may receive supplemental retirement benefits or survivor’s benefits under Social Security.
The following is a checklist of techniques for collection of past-due child support:
Wage withholding orders. These are entered by a court and served on the employer of the parent who owes support. (The person who owes support is called the “obligor.”) The employer sends payments to the government, which then sends support payments to the parent to whom support is owed.
Tax refund intercepts. The government sends a notice to the Internal Revenue Service or the state department of revenue, directing that the obligor’s tax refund be sent to the government for payment of support.
Liens on property. A lien can be placed on the real estate, automobile, or other property of the obligor. If support is not paid, the property can be confiscated and sold. Alternatively, the lien may stay on the property until it is sold by the obligor, at which point the debt must be paid before the obligor receives any proceeds from the sale.
Under the current law of almost all states, mothers and fathers have an equal right to custody. Courts are not supposed to assume that a child is automatically better off with the mother or the father. In a contested custody case, both the father and mother have an equal burden of proving to the court that it is in the best interest of the child that the child be in his or her custody.
There are a few states (mostly in the South) that have laws providing that if everything else is equal, the mother may be preferred; but in those states, many fathers have been successful in obtaining custody, even if the mother is a fit parent.
In some states, courts say that mothers and fathers are to be considered equally, but the courts then go on to hold that it is permissible to consider the age or sex of the child when deciding custody. That usually translates to a preference for mothers if the child is young or female. But, again, it is possible for fathers in those states to gain custody, even when the mother is fit.