When a child is born to married parents, or within 300 days after the termination of the marriage, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child under New Jersey law. When a child is born to unmarried parents and the purported father does not voluntarily claim paternity, it may be necessary for a New Jersey court to determine paternity of the child for the purposes of child support, custody, and parenting time. If a New Jersey court must determine paternity, how does it do so?
Deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) stores biological information. It is located within our cells and can be obtained via skin, saliva, hair, and other bodily fluid samples.
As fans of “CSI” know, DNA testing is significant in the criminal law context, because DNA may be located on physical evidence at a crime scene. If the DNA on the physical evidence matches the suspect’s DNA, it can be used as evidence in court to link the suspect to the crime.
DNA testing is also relevant in the family law context, because it can be used to determine paternity. Sexual reproduction brings the DNA of both parents together, so the genetic material of an individual is derived from the genetic material of both of his/her parents in equal amounts. Comparing the DNA sequence of an individual to that of another individual can show whether one of them was derived from the other. Hence, paternity may be established through DNA testing.
A New Jersey Court dealt recently dealt with a unique DNA paternity testing situation in Passaic County Bd. of Soc. Services v. A.S. In that case, DNA testing revealed that the Defendant was the father of one fraternal twin, but that he was not the father of the other twin. It turns out that fraternal twins with different fathers is a rare but not unheard of scientific phenomenon. Given such a unique set of circumstances, the Court was asked to determine whether it is appropriate to utilize DNA testing alone to establish paternity in New Jersey.
After a lengthy analysis of the history of DNA testing and the reliance placed upon it by other courts in both family and criminal law contexts, the New Jersey court concluded that DNA testing results may be accepted as reliable and accurate for the purpose of establishing paternity, as long as the DNA sample was handled and tested properly. However, in rare situations, like twins with two different dads, it may be necessary for the court to consider expert testimony or other evidence, in addition to the DNA testing results, in order to establish paternity.
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