Paternity In Massachusetts

Biological Father holds child’s hand

Paternity cases in Massachusetts are procedural and may get complicated. Get the help you need.

Paternity is the relationship between a child and his or her biological father.  That sounds pretty straightforward, but Massachusetts paternity cases can become complicated.  If you have a paternity issue, you should contact a Massachusetts paternity lawyer for advice as there is a lot at stake.

Oftentimes, a divorce attorney in Massachusetts will be able to assist you in paternity cases.

The establishment of a child’s paternity is important for many reasons.  First and foremost, it protects inheritance and child support rights.  In addition, it gives the child a sense of identity and connection to both maternal and paternal family members.  Finally, the child could be entitled to health insurance benefits, social security benefits or veteran’s benefits. Of course, child support is another issue clearly related to paternity!

Presumptions, Preseumptions, What’s Your Function?

Ok, sorry about the Schoolhouse Rock rip-off.

The law in Massachusetts presumes the paternity of a child  born to a married woman is that of her Husband.  The Husband’s name is automatically listed on the child’s birth certificate.  If the Husband is actually not the child’s Father, the husband must sign a notarized denial of paternity and the biological Father must sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity. Failure to complete the process correctly will result in the Husband’s name listed on the birth certificate, notwithstanding the biology of the situation.

If a child is born to a woman who is not married, the Father’s name will not appear on the child’s birth certificate unless paternity is established.  Got it?

Establishing Paternity in Massachusetts

There are two ways paternity is established in Massachusetts.  The first way is through the voluntary acknowledgment process.  A voluntary acknowledgement is a legal form signed by the Mother and the Father acknowledging the child’s paternity.  The form must be notarized and each party is informed of the right to seek genetic marker testing (sometimes referred to as DNA testing).   Paternity acknowledgements are often completed at the hospital as part of processing the child’s birth certificate.  They can also be completed with the City clerk at town or city hall.   Do not Execute a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity unless you are 100% sure of the child’s paternity! 

 You only have 60 days to rescind the acknowledgment and only have one-year to “un-do” paternity in a court and you must prove fraud.   There are actual cases where a man finds out years later that a child is actually the biological child of someone else.  As a matter of public policy, Massachusetts paternity laws do not make it easy and in most circumstances, it is impossible to “un-do” paternity.  There are cases where the non-biological Father must pay child support even after discovering through scientific evidence that he is not the Father.   

The second way paternity is established is through the court process.  Either the Mother or the man believing he is the Father can file a Complaint to Establish Paternity.   Most court-based paternity cases will result in the court ordering the parties and the child to submit to genetic marker testing.  Parties can privately pay for genetic marker testing or can apply for the services of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) and request they facilitate the genetic marker testing.  In order to have testing facilitated by DOR, you need a court order for the testing.

After the results of the genetic marker testing, the Judge can issue a court order which formally establishes the Child’s paternity.  The child’s birth certificate can then be amended to add the Father’s name.  The court will  likely establish a child support order, including a provision for the child’s medical insurance and can also establish a parenting (sometimes called visitation) plan.

Summary: If you have a paternity issue there is a lot at stake, including issues of child support.  Contact a Massachusetts paternity lawyer or a Massachusetts child support attorney for help and make sure things are handled correctly for your situation.   For more information, please contact The Divorce Collaborative, Massachusetts Family Law attorneys and mediators, at (508) 346-3805.

Divorce, paternity, and child support attorneys and divorce mediators in:

Franklin Area –  Medfield, Walpole, Norfolk, Millis, Medway, Holliston, Bellingham, Mansfield, Foxboro

Bedford Area –  Concord, Lexington, Billerica, Carlisle, Westford, Burlington, Chelmsford

Shrewsbury Area – Worcester, Westboro, Westborough, Northboro, Northborough, Southborough, Mendon, Upton, Framingham