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What Happens When Your Legal Child Isn’t Your Biological Child?

  • By: Eric Hannum, Esq.
  • Published: July 13, 2023
What Happens When Your Legal Child Isn't Your Biological Child

Imagine this: You’ve been raising a child in Manasquan, New Jersey, as your own, legally recognized as their parent, only to discover they aren’t biologically yours. Questions start swirling in your mind about child support, visitation, and custody – fundamental pillars of family law, with the legal status of parentage serving as a critical factor in determining them.

When a child is born within a marriage, New Jersey law typically assumes the husband to be the biological father, so his name is added to the birth certificate to reflect this. In situations where a child is born to unmarried parents, legal paternity can be established when the father signs the birth certificate.

However, what if you discover that your legally recognized child isn’t biologically yours? Is it possible to cease child support payments and modify your custody arrangement? Many facing this situation often inquire about seeking reimbursement for child support payments they made in the past.

The Child’s Best Interests

The legal landscape surrounding this issue is indeed complex. Nevertheless, when it comes to child support considerations, the priority is the child’s best interests, irrespective of the specific circumstances of the case. In situations where you share a significant emotional and financial relationship with the child, and the court deems this relationship in the child’s best interests, you may still be obligated to provide support.

The involvement of the biological father can play a pivotal role in the court’s decision. In cases where the biological father is absent from the picture, and you are the sole father figure known to the child, your legal status as the child’s father may mean you are responsible for child support, even if you are not biologically related. Know that challenging your paternity through an Affidavit of Denial of Paternity is possible, though. However, you may need to complete a DNA test to prove you are not the father.

Modifying Child Support Orders

Once you’ve established that you’re not the child’s biological father, you can seek a modification to your child support order to reduce or eliminate it. However, past child support payments are generally non-recoverable, especially if you’ve had a strong relationship with the child.

In such cases, consulting with a family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process, ensuring your rights and responsibilities are protected while maintaining the child’s best interests, is vital. The legal process surrounding child support is complicated, so our experienced family law attorneys are here to provide clarity and help navigate these challenging situations.

Eric Hannum, Esq.

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