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New Jersey Paternity Law Summary

Paternity - General - New Jersey


New Jersey Statutes
TITLE 9 CHILDREN — JUVENILE AND DOMESTIC RELATIONS COURTS
SUBTITLE 4 ILLEGITIMATE CHILDREN
CHAPTER 17 BASTARDY PROCEEDINGS.
ARTICLE 10. PARENTAGE [17-38 to 17-59]

9:17-38. Short title

This act shall be known and may be cited as the "New Jersey Parentage Act."

9:17-39. Parent and child relationship defined

As used in this act, "parent and child relationship" means the legal relationship existing between a child and the child's natural or adoptive parents, incident to which the law confers or imposes rights, privileges, duties, and obligations. It includes the mother and child relationship and the father and child relationship.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 2.

9:17-40. Extent of parent and child relationship

The parent and child relationship extends equally to every child and to every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parents.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 3.

9:17-41. Proof of parent-child relationship; termination of natural parental rights; action.

4. The parent and child relationship between a child and:

a. The natural mother, may be established by proof of her having given birth to the child, or under P.L. 1983, c. 17 (C. 9:17-38 et seq.);

b. The natural father, may be established by proof that his paternity has been adjudicated under prior law; under the laws governing probate; by giving full faith and credit to a determination of paternity made by any other state or jurisdiction, whether established through voluntary acknowledgment or through judicial or administrative processes; by a Certificate of Parentage as provided in section 7 of P.L. 1994, c. 164 (C. 26:8-28.1) that is executed by the father, including an unemancipated minor, prior to or after the birth of a child, and filed with the appropriate State agency; by a default judgment or order of the court; or by an order of the court based on a blood test or genetic test that meets or exceeds the specific threshold probability as set by subsection i. of section 11 of P.L. 1983, c. 17 (C. 9:17-48) creating a rebuttable presumption of paternity.

In accordance with section 331 of Pub.L.104-193, a signed voluntary acknowledgment of paternity shall be considered a legal finding of paternity subject to the right of the signatory to rescind the acknowledgment within 60 days of the date of signing, or by the date of establishment of a support order to which the signatory is a party, whichever is earlier.

The adjudication of paternity shall only be voided upon a finding that there exists clear and convincing evidence of: fraud, duress or a material mistake of fact, with the burden of proof upon the challenger;

c. An adoptive parent, may be established by proof of adoption;

d. The natural mother or the natural father, may be terminated by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction in granting a judgment of adoption or as the result of an action to terminate parental rights;

e. The establishment of the parent and child relationship pursuant to subsections a., b., and c. of this section shall be the basis upon which an action for child support may be brought by a party and acted upon by the court without further evidentiary proceedings;

f. In any case in which the parties execute a Certificate of Parentage or a rebuttable presumption of paternity is created through genetic testing, the presumption of paternity under section 6 of P.L. 1983, c. 17 (C. 9:17-43) shall not apply;

g. Pursuant to the provisions of section 331 of Pub.L.104-193, the child and other parties in a contested paternity case shall submit to a genetic test upon the request of one of the parties, unless that person has good cause for refusal, if the request is supported by a sworn statement by the requesting party:

(1) alleging paternity and setting forth the facts establishing a reasonable possibility of the requisite sexual contact between the parties; or

(2)denying paternity and setting forth the facts establishing a reasonable possibility of the nonexistence of sexual contact between the parties;

h. In a contested paternity case in which the State IV-D agency requires or the court orders genetic testing, the State IV-D agency shall:

(1)pay the costs of the genetic test and may recoup payment from the alleged father whose paternity is established; and

(2)obtain additional testing if the initial test results are contested, and upon the request and advance payment for the additional test by the contestant.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 4; amended 1994, c. 164, § 1; 1997, c. 376, § 3; 1998, c. 1, § 38.

9:17-42. Closed court; confidentiality of records

Notwithstanding any other law concerning public hearings and records, any action or proceeding held under this act shall be held in closed court without admittance of any person other than those necessary to the action or proceeding. All papers and records and any information pertaining to an action or proceeding held under this act which may reveal the identity of any party in an action, other than the final judgment or the birth certificate, whether part of the permanent record of the court or of a file with the State registrar of vital statistics or elsewhere, are confidential and are subject to inspection only upon consent of the court and all parties to the action who are still living, or in exceptional cases only upon an order of the court for compelling reason clearly and convincingly shown.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 5.

9:17-43 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).

b. A presumption under this section may be rebutted in an appropriate action only by clear and convincing evidence. If two or more presumptions arise which conflict with each other, the presumption which on the facts is founded on the weightier considerations of policy and logic controls. The presumption is rebutted by a court order terminating the presumed father's paternal rights or by establishing that another man is the child's biological or adoptive father.

c. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section to the contrary, in an action brought under this act against the legal representative or the estate of a deceased alleged father, the criteria in paragraphs (4) and (5) of subsection a. of this section shall not constitute presumptions but shall be considered by the court together with all of the evidence submitted. The decision of the court shall be based on a preponderance of the evidence.

d. In the absence of a presumption, the court shall decide whether the parent and child relationship exists, based upon a preponderance of the evidence.

e. There is a rebuttable presumption that a man has knowledge of his paternity and the birth of a child if he had sexual intercourse with the biological mother within 300 days of the child's birth. This presumption may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence in an appropriate action based on fraud, duress, or misrepresentation by the biological mother concerning the paternity or birth of the child. This claim of fraud, duress, or misrepresentation must be asserted prior to the finalization of the adoption.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 6; amended 1998, c. 20, § 4.

9:17-44. Artificial insemination

a. If, under the supervision of a licensed physician and with the consent of her husband, a wife is inseminated artificially with semen donated by a man not her husband, the husband is treated in law as if he were the natural father of a child thereby conceived. The husband's consent shall be in writing and signed by him and his wife. The physician shall certify their signatures and the date of the insemination, upon forms provided by the Department of Health, and file the husband's consent with the State Department of Health, where it shall be kept confidential and in a sealed file. However, the physician's failure to do so shall not affect the father and child relationship. All papers and records pertaining to the insemination, whether part of the permanent record of a court or of a file held by the supervising physician or elsewhere, are subject to inspection only upon an order of the court for compelling reasons clearly and convincingly shown.

b. Unless the donor of semen and the woman have entered into a written contract to the contrary, the donor of semen provided to a licensed physician for use in artificial insemination of a woman other than the donor's wife is treated in law as if he were not the father of a child thereby conceived and shall have no rights or duties stemming from the conception of a child.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 7.

9:17-45. Parties; limitations of action; death of alleged father; agreement between mother and alleged father; actions brought before birth; inheritance

8. a. A child, a legal representative of the child, the natural mother, the estate or legal representative of the mother, if the mother has died or is a minor, a man alleged or alleging himself to be the father, the estate or legal representative of the alleged father, if the alleged father has died or is a minor, the Division of Family Development in the Department of Human Services, or the county welfare agency, or any person with an interest recognized as justifiable by the court may bring or defend an action or be made a party to an action at any time for the purpose of determining the existence or nonexistence of the parent and child relationship.

b. No action shall be brought under P.L. 1983, c. 17 (C. 9:17-38 et seq.) more than five years after the child attains the age of majority.

c. The death of the alleged father shall not cause abatement of any action to establish paternity, and an action to determine the existence or nonexistence of the parent and child relationship may be instituted or continued against the estate or the legal representative of the alleged father.

d. Regardless of its terms, an agreement, other than an agreement approved by the court in accordance with subsection c. of section 11 of P.L. 1983, c. 17 (C. 9:17-48) between an alleged or presumed father and the mother of the child, shall not bar an action under this section.

e. If an action under this section is brought before the birth of the child, all proceedings shall be stayed until after the birth, except service of process and the taking of depositions to perpetuate testimony. The court may consider the issue of medical expenses and may order the alleged father to pay the reasonable expenses of the mother's pregnancy and postpartum disability. Bills for pregnancy, childbirth and genetic testing are admissible as evidence without requiring third party foundation testimony, and shall constitute prima facie evidence of the amounts incurred for such services or for testing on behalf of the child.

f. This section does not extend the time within which a right of inheritance or a right to succession may be asserted beyond the time provided by law relating to distribution and closing of decedents' estates or to the determination of heirship, or otherwise, or limit any time period for the determination of any claims arising under the laws governing probate, including the construction of wills and trust instruments.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 8; amended 1997, c. 376, § 2; 1998, c. 1, § 39.

9:17-46. Jurisdiction

9. a. The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction over an action brought under this act. The action shall be joined with an action for divorce, annulment, separate maintenance or support.

b. A person who has sexual intercourse in this State thereby submits to the jurisdiction of the courts of this State as to an action brought under this act with respect to a child who may have been conceived by that act of intercourse. In addition to any other method provided by law, personal jurisdiction may be acquired by service in accordance with the rules of the court.

c. The action may be brought in the county in which the child or the alleged father resides or is found or, if the father is deceased, in which proceedings for probate of his estate have been or could be commenced.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 9; amended 1991, c. 91, § 211.

9:17-47. Parties; guardian ad litem

The child may be made a party to the action. If the child is a minor and is made a party, a guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court to represent the child. The child's mother or father may not represent the child as guardian or otherwise. The court may appoint an attorney-at-law or an appropriate State agency as guardian ad litem for the child. The natural mother, each man presumed to be the father under section 6, each man alleged to be the natural father, any one whose name appears on the birth certificate, and anyone who has attempted to file an acknowledgment under section 6, whether or not effective to create a presumption of paternity, shall be made parties or, if not subject to the jurisdiction of the court, shall be given notice of the action in a manner prescribed by the court and an opportunity to be heard. The court may align the parties.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 10.

9:17-48. Consent conference; settlement; contested cases, testing; presumptions.

11. a. As soon as practicable after an action to declare the existence or nonexistence of the father and child relationship has been brought, a consent conference shall be held by the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part intake service, the Probation Division or the county welfare agency. At the request of either party, the determination of paternity may be referred directly to the court in lieu of the consent process. A court appearance shall be scheduled in the event that a consent agreement cannot be reached.

b. On the basis of the information produced at the conference, an appropriate recommendation for settlement shall be made to the parties, which may include any of the following:

(1) That the action be dismissed with or without prejudice; or

(2) That the alleged father voluntarily acknowledge his paternity of the child.

c. If the parties accept a recommendation made in accordance with subsection b. of this section, which has been approved by the court, judgment shall be entered or a Certificate of Parentage shall be executed accordingly.

d. If a party refuses to accept a recommendation made under subsection b. of this section or the consent conference is terminated because it is unlikely that all parties would accept a recommendation pursuant to subsection b. of this section, and blood tests or genetic tests have not been taken, the county welfare agency shall require or the court shall order the child and the parties to submit to blood tests or genetic tests unless a party claims, and the county welfare agency or the court finds, good cause for not ordering the tests. The court may hear and decide motions to challenge a directive issued by the county welfare agency requiring a party to submit to blood or genetic tests. A genetic test shall be ordered upon the request of either party, if the request is supported by a sworn statement by the requesting party which alleges paternity and sets forth the facts establishing a reasonable possibility of the requisite sexual contact between the parties or denies paternity and sets forth the facts establishing a reasonable possibility of the nonexistence of sexual contact between the parties. If a party refuses to acknowledge paternity based upon the blood or genetic test results, the action shall be set for a hearing.

If the results of the blood test or genetic test indicate that the specific threshold probability, as set by subsection i. of this section to establish paternity has been met or exceeded, the results shall be received in evidence as a rebuttable presumption of paternity without requiring any additional foundation testimony or proof of authenticity or accuracy of the paternity testing or results. In actions based on allegations of fraud or inaccurate analysis, the court or the county welfare agency shall require that additional blood or genetic tests be scheduled within 10 days of the request and be performed by qualified experts. Additional blood or genetic tests shall be paid for in advance by the requesting party.

If a party objects to the results of the blood or genetic tests, the party shall make the objection to the appropriate agency, in writing, within 10 days of the consent conference or hearing.

e. The guardian ad litem may accept or refuse to accept a recommendation under this section.

f. (Deleted by amendment, P.L. 1994, c. 164).

g. No evidence, testimony or other disclosure from the consent conference shall be admitted as evidence in a civil action except by consent of the parties. However, blood tests or genetic tests ordered pursuant to subsection d. of this section shall be admitted as evidence.

h. The refusal to submit to a blood test or genetic test required pursuant to subsection d. of this section, or both, shall be admitted into evidence and shall give rise to the presumption that the results of the test would have been unfavorable to the interests of the party who refused to submit to the test. Refusal to submit to a blood test or genetic test, or both, is also subject to the contempt power of the court.

i. Blood test or genetic test results indicating a 95% or greater probability that the alleged father is the father of the child shall create a presumption of paternity which may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence that the results of the test are not reliable in that particular case.

j. If a party refuses to acknowledge paternity or does not appear at a consent conference conducted by the county welfare agency, the county welfare agency shall refer the matter to the court for adjudication. For purposes of establishing paternity, the blood or genetic test results shall be admitted into evidence at the hearing without the need for foundation testimony or other proof of authenticity or accuracy, unless an objection is made.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 11; amended 1991, c. 91, § 212; 1994, c. 164, § 2; 1997, c. 376, § 4; 1998, c. 1, § 40.

9:17-49. Civil action under act; trial by court.

12. a. An action under this act is a civil action governed by the Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey.

b. The trial shall be by the court without a jury.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 12; amended 1998, c. 1, § 46.

9:17-50. Witnesses; compelling to testify; immunity; contempt; physician's testimony; admissibility of evidence

a. The mother of the child and the alleged father are competent to testify and may be compelled to testify.

b. Upon refusal of any witness, including a party, to testify under oath or produce evidence, the court may order the witness to testify under oath and produce evidence concerning all relevant facts. If the refusal is upon the ground that the testimony or evidence might tend to incriminate the witness, the court, after notice to the prosecutor, may grant the witness immunity from all criminal liability on account of the testimony or evidence that the witness is required to produce. An order granting immunity bars prosecution of the witness for any offense shown in whole or in part by testimony or evidence the witness is required to produce, except for perjury committed in the testimony. The refusal of a witness who has been granted immunity to obey an order to testify or produce evidence is a civil contempt of the court.

c. Testimony of a physician concerning the medical circumstances of the pregnancy, and the condition and characteristics of the child upon birth is not privileged.

d. Testimony relating to sexual access to the mother by any man at any time other than the probable time of conception of the child is inadmissible in evidence, unless offered by the mother. Before testimony relating to sexual access to the mother by an unidentified man at the probable time of conception may be introduced, the court shall hold an in camera hearing to determine whether the evidence is sufficiently probative so that the interests of justice require its admission.

e. In an action against an alleged father, uncorroborated evidence offered by him with respect to a man who is not subject to the jurisdiction of the court concerning his sexual intercourse with the mother at or about the probable time of conception of the child is admissible in evidence only if the other man has undergone blood tests or genetic tests, the results of which do not exclude the possibility of his paternity of the child and which tests are made available to the court. A man who is identified and is subject to the jurisdiction of the court shall be made a party in the action.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 13.

9:17-51. Repealed.

Repealed.

Repealed by L. 1994, c. 164, § 8, eff. Dec. 20, 1994.

9:17-52. Evidence relating to paternity

Evidence relating to paternity may include:

a. Evidence of sexual intercourse between the mother and alleged father at any possible time of conception;

b. An expert's opinion concerning the statistical probability of the alleged father's paternity, based upon the duration of the mother's pregnancy;

c. Genetic or blood tests, weighted in accordance with evidence, if available, of the statistical probability of the alleged father's paternity;

d. Medical or anthropological evidence relating to the alleged father's paternity of the child, based on tests performed by experts. If a man has been identified as a possible father of the child, the court may, and upon request of a party shall, require the child, the mother, and the man to submit to appropriate tests; and

e. All other evidence on behalf of any party, relevant to the issue of paternity of the child.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 15.

9:17-52.1. Default order, effect

6. A default order shall be entered in a contested paternity action upon a showing that proper notice has been served upon the party and the party has failed to appear at a hearing or trial; or has failed to respond to a notice or order that required a response within a specific period of time. A default order entered pursuant to this section shall be determinative for purposes of establishing the existence of paternity when proper notice has been served and a sworn statement by the mother indicating the parentage of the child has been executed.

L. 1994, c. 164, § 6.

9:17-53. Judgment or order; amendment of birth record; amount of support.

16. a. The judgment or order of the court or a Certificate of Parentage determining the existence or nonexistence of the parent and child relationship is determinative for all purposes.

b. If the judgment or order of the court is at variance with the child's birth certificate, the court shall order that an amendment to the original birth record be made under section 22 of P.L. 1983, c. 17 (C. 9:17-59).

c. The judgment or order may contain any other provision directed against the appropriate party to the proceeding concerning the duty of support, the custody and guardianship of the child, parenting time privileges with the child, the furnishing of bond or other security for the payment of the judgment, the repayment of any public assistance grant, or any other matter in the best interests of the child. The judgment or order may direct the father to pay the reasonable expenses of the mother's pregnancy and postpartum disability, including repayment to an agency which provided public assistance funds for those expenses. Bills for pregnancy, childbirth and blood or genetic testing are admissible as evidence without requiring third party foundation testimony, and shall constitute prima facie evidence of the amounts incurred for these services or for testing on behalf of the child.

d. Support judgments or orders ordinarily shall be for periodic payments, which may vary in amount. In the best interests of the child, the purchase of an annuity may be ordered in lieu of periodic payments of support. The court may limit a parent's liability for past support of the child to the proportion of the expenses already incurred that the court deems just.

e. In determining the amount to be paid by a parent for support of the child and the period during which the duty of support is owed, the court shall apply the child support guidelines as defined in section 3 of P.L. 1998, c. 1 (C. 2A:17-56.52). In cases in which the court finds that a deviation from these guidelines is appropriate, the court shall consider all relevant facts when determining the amount of support, including the:

(1) Needs of the child;

(2) Standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;

(3) Income and assets of each parent, including any public assistance grant received by a parent;

(4) Earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children and the length of time and cost for each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment;

(5) Need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education;

(6) Age and health of the child and each parent;

(7) Income, assets and earning ability of the child;

(8) Responsibility of the parents for the support of others; and

(9) Debts and liabilities of each child and parent.

The factors set forth herein are not intended to be exhaustive. The court may consider such other factors as may be appropriate under the circumstances. The obligation to pay support for a child who has not been emancipated by the court shall not terminate solely on the basis of the child's age if the child suffers from a severe mental or physical incapacity that causes the child to be financially dependent on a parent. The obligation to pay support for that child shall continue until the court finds that the child is relieved of the incapacity or is no longer financially dependent on the parent. However, in assessing the financial obligation of the parent, the court shall consider, in addition to the factors enumerated in this section, the child's eligibility for public benefits and services for people with disabilities and may make such orders, including an order involving the creation of a trust, as are necessary to promote the well-being of the child.

As used in this section "severe mental or physical incapacity" shall not include a child's abuse of, or addiction to, alcohol or controlled substances. 2005

f. Upon a motion by a party, the court shall enter a temporary support order pending a judicial determination of parentage if there is clear and convincing evidence of paternity supported by blood or genetic test results or other evidence.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 16; amended 1997, c. 299, § 11; 1998, c. 1, § 41; 2005, c. 171, § 3.

9:17-54. Costs and fees

The court may order reasonable fees of counsel, experts, and the child's guardian ad litem, and other costs of the action and pre-trial proceedings, including blood or genetic tests, to be paid by the parties in proportions and at times determined by the court.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 17.

9:17-55. Enforcing parties

a. If existence of the father and child relationship is declared, or paternity or a duty of support has been acknowledged or adjudicated under this act or under prior law, the obligation of the father may be enforced in the same or other proceedings by the mother, and child, the public agency that has furnished or may furnish the reasonable expenses of pregnancy, postpartum disability, education, support, medical expenses, or burial, or by any other person, including a private agency, to the extent that the mother, child, person or agency has furnished or is furnishing these expenses.

b. The court may order support payments to be made to the mother, the clerk of the court, the appropriate probation department, or a person, corporation, or agency designated to administer them for the benefit of the child, under the supervision of the court.

c. Willful failure to obey the judgment or order of the court is a civil contempt of the court.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 18. Amended by L. 1985, c. 278, § 10, eff. Oct. 1, 1985.

9:17-56. Continuing jurisdiction

The court has continuing jurisdiction to modify or revoke a judgment or order.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 19.

9:17-57. Parties

The child, the mother or personal representative of the child, the Division of Public Welfare in the Department of Human Services or the county welfare agency, the personal representative or a parent, if the mother has died or is a minor, a man alleged or alleging himself to be the father, the personal representative or a parent of the alleged father, if the alleged father has died or is a minor, or any person with an interest recognized as justiciable by the court may bring an action to determine the existence or nonexistence of a mother and child relationship. Insofar as practicable, the provisions of this act applicable to the father and child relationship apply.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 20.

9:17-58. Support agreement

a. Any agreement in writing to furnish support for a child, growing out of a supposed or alleged father and child relationship, does not require consideration and is enforceable according to its terms, subject to subsection d. of section 8.

b. In the best interests of the child or the mother, the court may, and upon the request of the person agreeing to furnish support shall, order the agreement to be kept in confidence and designate a person or agency to receive and disburse on behalf of the child all amounts paid in performance of the agreement.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 21.

9:17-59. Amended birth record

a. Upon order of a court of this State or upon request of a court of another state, the local registrar of vital statistics shall prepare an amended birth record consistent with the findings of the court.

b. The fact that the father and child relationship was declared after the child's birth shall not be ascertainable from the amended birth record, but the actual place and date of birth shall be shown.

c. The evidence upon which the amended birth record was made and the original birth certificate shall be kept in a sealed and confidential file and be subject to inspection only upon consent of the court and all interested persons, or in exceptional cases only upon an order of the court for compelling reasons clearly and convincingly shown.

L. 1983, c. 17, § 22.



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