Gasps were heard around the country when Cersei Lanaster of Games of Thrones told her brother (we know…eeek) Jamie Lanaster that he is the father. Like most expecting fathers, Jamie did not question whether or not the unborn baby is his, while fans have their doubts especially after last Sunday’s episode. This however raises the issue and begs the question, what is the law in New Jersey concerning paternity?
Pursuant to Title 9, Chapter 14, Article 43:
NJ Rev Stat § 9:17-43 (2018) Presumptions
6. a. A man is presumed to be the biological father of a child if:
(1) He and the child’s biological mother are or have been 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, he and the child’s biological mother have attempted to marry each other by a marriage solemnized in apparent compliance with law, although the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and:
(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, he and the child’s biological mother have married, or attempted to marry, each other by a marriage solemnized in apparent compliance with law, although the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and:
(a)he has acknowledged his paternity of the child in writing filed with the local registrar of vital statistics;
(b)he 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; or
(c)he openly holds out the child as his natural child; or
(d)he is obligated to support the child under a written voluntary agreement or court order;
(4) While the child is under the age of majority, he 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, he provides support for the child and openly holds out the child as his natural child; or
(6) He acknowledges his paternity of the child in a writing filed with the local registrar of vital statistics, which shall promptly inform the mother of the filing of the acknowledgment, and she does not dispute the acknowledgment within a reasonable time after being informed thereof, in a writing filed with the local registrar. If another man is presumed under this section to be the child’s father, acknowledgment may be effected only with the written consent of the presumed father. Each attempted acknowledgment, whether or not effective, shall be kept on file by the local registrar of vital statistics and shall entitle the person who filed it to notice of all proceedings concerning parentage and adoption of the child, as provided in section 10 of P.L. 1983, c. 17 (C. 9:17-47) and pursuant to section 9 of P.L. 1977, c. 367 (C. 9:3-45).
Essentially, if the Mother and Father are still married then the unborn child is presumed to be Dad’s. Furthermore, if the Father acknowledges paternity whether that be in writing or providing financial support the Father is presumed to be the biological father. Some Courts have even denied a Father’s request to establish paternity years after the child is born because the Father (for example) acknowledged paternity when the child was born. Therefore, if a soon to be Father is not sure it is best to establish paternity (take a DNA test) soon after the child is born and before a relationship is formed whether that be financial and emotional or both.
Moral of the story, don’t be like Jamie Lanaster but if there is any doubt take a DNA test while the child is still young.
Kimberly Greenfield, Esq. is an associate with Adinolfi, Molotsky, Burick & Falkenstein, PA. Ms. Greenfield focuses her practices on all aspects of divorce and family law.