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Having children before you get married or without any plans to get married is much more common than it once was. Unfortunately, if your relationship with the mother of your child starts to sour, the lack of legal ties can potentially complicate things.

Some fathers even assume that since they never got married, they don’t have a right to ask for custody. What can you do as a loving father who wants to be part of his children’s lives despite ending his relationship with the mother of his children?

Are you already on the birth certificate?

If the birth mother acknowledged you from the day of your child’s birth, your name may already be on your child’s birth certificate. If that is the case, it should be a relatively straightforward process to go to the New Jersey family courts and ask them to allocate some share of custody to you. Whether you want visitation or to fully share in parental responsibilities and parenting time, you typically won’t have to take extra steps because you are already on record as the father of your child.

If you aren’t on the birth certificate, you need to establish paternity

Just because you aren’t on a birth certificate, that doesn’t mean you have less of a claim to fatherhood or a role in the life of your child. It just means that you may have to take a few extra steps in order to solidify those rights.

In some cases, you may be able to execute a document with the mother of your child to establish paternity and therefore custody rights. If she won’t work with you on this issue, you may have no choice but to go to the courts and ask for their assistance in establishing paternity.

If you are concerned that it may be a contentious issue for you and the mother of your child, getting legal advice early is a wise choice.