For mothers, parental rights are imparted at the time of a child’s birth; the mother does not need to do anything or sign any documents to prove that she is the child’s mother or to be granted parental rights. However, the same is not always true for fathers in our state, particularly unmarried fathers. For fathers, knowing the three ways to establish paternity and gain legal parental rights as a father is critical. Refer to the following for information about establishing paternity, and call our experienced family and fathers’ rights lawyer at the Law Office of Heather M. Ward for help with your case.
3 Ways to Establish Paternity
There are only three ways that paternity can be established in the state of Massachusetts:
- The mother and father are married at the time of the child’s birth. If a mother and father are married at the time of a child’s birth, then paternity is automatically established. As such, it is only unmarried fathers who need to pay attention to the other two ways in which paternity can be established in our state. Note that if the mother’s husband is not the child’s biological father, then both the mother and the husband may sign an Affidavit of Non-Paternity.
- Both parents sign a paternity acknowledgment form. If both the child’s biological mother and biological father agree about who the father is, and if the parents of the child are unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, then both parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form. This form can be signed at the time of the child’s birth, or at a later date.
- Paternity is established through a court order. If there is any disagreement or uncertainty about who a child’s biological father is, paternity can be established by court order following genetic testing. A petition can be filed with the court by either a child’s mother or a man who believes himself to be a child’s father requesting that the child and father submit to genetic testing. If the result of that genetic test indicates that the man is indeed the child’s father, the court will issue a finding of paternity.
What Happens Next?
After paternity has been established, a father has the right to seek custody of or visitation with his child. The child will also have the right to receive benefits on their father’s record, such as health insurance or Social Security payments. Further, if a child’s mother is the primary custodial parent, the mother can seek child support from the father. Until paternity has been established, none of these things are possible.
Get Help With Your Paternity Case
If you are a mother or a father who wants to learn more about paternity and how to establish it, our experienced family law and paternity attorney, Heather M. Ward, can help. To schedule a consultation, please call the Law Office of Heather M. Ward directly at (617) 903-8955 today or send us a message online at your convenience.