About the Program

What is the Paternity Opportunity Program?

The Paternity Opportunity Program (POP) is designed to help a child of unmarried parents establish a legal relationship with his or her father. The Program was conceived by the State of New Jersey, in response to a federal mandate, to make it easier for parents to acknowledge paternity voluntarily using simple in-hospital processes at the time of birth. Parents can also voluntarily acknowledge paternity later, after they leave the hospital at their local Registrar or County Welfare Agency (CWA) office. Whether at the hospital or later at the local Registrar or CWA office, parents can establish paternity by completing the Certificate of Parentage (COP) form.

Overview of Paternity Establishment

The establishment of paternity is the process of creating a legal relationship between a father and child when the child’s parents are unmarried. If a child is born to an unmarried mother, the child does not have a legal father and the father’s name will not appear on the birth certificate unless the parents take steps to establish paternity. If the mother is married at the time of birth, her husband is the presumed father of the child and paternity is not an issue.

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How can the Paternity Opportunity Program help me?
If you want to know if establishing paternity is right for you and your child;
If you want to find out more about the process; or
If you have questions about what paternity establishment means;
You can get answers here or by calling us at 1-800-POP-6607 (1-800-767-6607).
Why Establish Paternity?
Legally establishing the father protects your child by giving him options and advantages he might otherwise miss. Establishing paternity provides your child with a security only you can give. Below are some of the reasons you may want to establish paternity.

For Your Child’s Sense of Identity-
Children find it very important to know who their mother and father are, and to have a relationship with both parents. Children who don’t know both parents often miss out on knowing both sides of their extended family, so they lose grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as a parent.

To Help Set-up Custody & Visitation-
Unless a court order is issued, the mother is the sole residential parent and the legal custodian of the child. However, once paternity is established, the father can petition the court for visitation rights and/or to share in custody arrangements. This gives the opportunity for the father and child to see each other regularly and for the father to have custody of the child if something happens to the mother. It can also help take the pressure off of one parent trying to raise a child alone.

To Establish Child Support-
Both parents have the responsibility to financially support their child. If the parents choose to separate and paternity has already been established, it will be easier for the child to keep receiving the support he or she needs.

To Secure Financial Benefits-
Legal paternity allows the child to qualify for important financial benefits from the father. These benefits may include social security, life insurance, veterans’ benefits, and inheritance rights if something happens to the father.

To Provide Medical Benefits-
A legal father may be able to add his child to his health insurance policy. Also, it can be important for a child to know the medical history of both parents and relatives.
How do I Establish Paternity for My Child?
In New Jersey, unmarried parents can establish paternity two ways:
  1. Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity: By completing and signing the Certificate of Parentage form, both parents agree that the man listed on the form is the biological father of the child and choose to make him the legal father of the child. To see if the Certificate of Parentage is appropriate for your situation, click here to answer a few questions.
  2. Order of Paternity: If both parties are not willing to complete and sign the Certificate of Parentage, then either party can file a complaint through the Family Division to seek a court order for paternity. Click here to find a list of New Jersey Family Divisions.
Genetic testing can be requested prior to the completion of the Certificate of Parentage or an order for paternity. If genetic testing is requested and the mother lives in New Jersey, please contact the local County Welfare Agency in the mother’s county of residence. If the mother lives outside of New Jersey, you may contact the County Welfare Agency in the father’s county of residence. Click here to find a list of New Jersey County Welfare Agencies.
Where do I Complete a Certificate of Parentage for My Child?
The Certificate of Parentage can be completed at the following locations:
  • Hospital - At the time of birth, unmarried parents are offered the opportunity to complete the Certificate of Parentage form at the hospital or birth facility.
  • Local Registrar - After the child is born, a Certificate of Parentage may be completed at your local registrar. Click here to find a list of Registrars for all New Jersey counties.
  • Local County Welfare Office – The Certificate of Parentage may also be completed at your local County Welfare Agency. Click here to find a list of New Jersey County Welfare Agencies.