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In New Jersey, there is a strong presumption that, where a man and a woman are married and a child is born during the marriage, the husband is the natural biological father of the child. N.J.S.A. 9:17-43(a)(1). Moreover, said presumption also arises when the man receives the child, while it is under the age of majority, “into his home and holds out the child as his natural child” or when the man “provides support for the child [while it is under the age of majority] and openly holds out the child as his natural child.” N.J.S.A. 9:17-43 (a)(4,5).
The above presumption may only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. N.J.S.A. 9:17-43(b). Then Appellate Court Judge Handler stated that said presumption “reflects the strong extant public policy in preserving the legitimacy of the child, which properly characterizes the burden of overcoming that very strong presumption as a heavy one . . .” Sarte v. Pidoto, 129 N.J.Super. 405, 411 (App. Div. 1974).
In M.F. v. N.H., 252 N.J. Super. 420 (App Div. 1991), the court held that a court may not order blood tests unless the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interests of the child. The court went on to set forth the following factors the court should consider when making such a determination: (1) harm to the child such as emotional injury, distrust and possible confusion of knowing the parenting father is not the biological father; (2) protection of the child's physical, mental and emotional needs; (3) the stability of the family relationship and extent of the intrusion that will result from a paternity determination; (4) the consistency of the putative father's interest in the child; (5) societal stigma that may result or be perceived by establishing relationship, including placing the child's birth outside of the traditional wedlock setting; (6) continuity of established relationships; (7) any extent to which uncertainty of parentage already exists in the child's mind; and (8) the child's interest in knowing family and genetic background, including medical and emotional history.
According to N.J.S.A. 9:17-43, a man is presumed to be the biological father of a child if one of the six following events occur:
(1) The man and the child’s biological mother are or have been legally and validly married to each other and the child is born during the marriage, or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment or divorce;
(2) Before the child’s birth, the father and the child’s biological mother have attempted to marry each other by marriage performed in apparent compliance with law, although the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and one of the following occurs:
(a) If the attempted marriage could be declared invalid only by a court; the child is born during the attempted marriage or within 300 days after its termination by death, annulment, or divorce; or
(b) If the attempted marriage is invalid without a court order, the child is born within 300 days after the termination of cohabitation;
(3) After the child’s birth, the father and the child’s biological mother have married or attempted to marry each other by a marriage performed in apparent compliance with law, although the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the father:
(a) has acknowledged his paternity of the child in writing filed with the local registrar of vital statistics;
(b) has sought to have his name placed on the child’s birth certificate as the child’s father pursuant to R.S.26:8-40;
(c) openly hold out the child as his natural child;
(d) is obligated to support the child under a written voluntary agreement or court order;
(4) While the child is under the age of majority, the father receives the child into his home and openly holds out the child as his natural child;
(5) While the child is under the age of majority, the father provides support for the child and openly holds out the child as his natural child;
(6) The father acknowledges his paternity of the child in a writing filed with the local registrar of vital statistics, which registrar will promptly inform the mother of the filing of the acknowledgment, and the mother does not dispute the acknowledgment in a writing filed with the local registrar, within a reasonable time after being so informed.
Given the complexities involved with Paternity, we advise you to contact one of our experienced family law attorneys at 908-735-5161 at Gebhardt & Kiefer today. We handle Paternity and family law issues throughout New Jersey.