Holding hands (Photo credit: Marco Nedermeijer)
When the paternity of a child is in question, parents do have the right to request a genetic test from the State, according to a recent decision by the New Jersey State Supreme Court. (1) This recent decision, which was in response to a 2006 Morris County divorce case, overturned a lower court ruling denying the request for a State-sponsored test because it would not be in favor of the child involved. In the divorce, the husband expressed doubt that the youngest of his three sons was his actual biological offspring, claiming instead the child was the son of his brother-in-law. The brother-in-law neither denied nor admitted paternity. The husband, however, proved his suspicions through private testing and sought repayment of money he spent raising the child. (1)
While this case may be unusual, paternity matters play a role in a number of areas, including divorce cases, inheritance and beneficiary issues, and especially child support orders. Failure to meet those child support orders in this State can result in penalties ranging from the seizure of tax refunds to the revocation of professional and/or driver’s licenses and, ultimately, to arrest and possible jail time. (2)
An estranged father has a lot to risk if he fails to meet his parental obligations and these obligations are no small matter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the cost of raising a child for the first 17 years of his or her life at about $235,000 for families with an annual income between $59,000 and $103,000. The cost fluctuates from about $160,000 for lower income families to about $300,000 for higher income families. (3)
With so much at stake, it is certainly understandable for a man with doubts to want to prove paternity before accepting responsibility for a child, and this recent decision confirms his right to do so. If you have doubts about paternity, contact Victor Rotolo and the Hunterdon County family lawyers at The Rotolo Law Firm. The firm is located on Route 22 in the westbound lane, minutes from the intersection of Routes 78 and 31.