For mothers of children in Massachusetts, legal parentage and the rights that surround it is automatic; birth mothers do not need to do anything to prove that they are a child’s mother, and a mother’s name is automatically added to a child’s birth certificate.

The same is not always true for fathers, however. In fact, unmarried fathers in Massachusetts must establish paternity in order to have any legal rights pertaining to a child. Consider the following about paternity in Massachusetts and how to establish it–

What Is Paternity and Why Is it Important?

Establishing paternity is the process of naming a child’s rightful father. If paternity is not established, then a father has no legal rights, which means that the father cannot petition the court for visitation with the child. Establishing paternity is also important for a child’s mother, as once paternity is established, the mother can seek child support payments. For the child, there are also advantages, including child support payments, knowing who one’s father is, being able to recover benefits from a father’s Social Security record, and more.

How Is Paternity Established in Massachusetts?

There are two different ways that parents can establish paternity if the child’s parents are not married at the time of a child’s birth (if parents are married, then the paternity of the father is assumed).

  1. Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. The first way that parents can establish paternity if they are unmarried is by both signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form.
  2. Court order. The other way that paternity can be established is by asking the court to do so. This is common when there is a disagreement about paternity, and either party holds that the man is the father and the other party holds that the man is not the father. Either a mother or an alleged father may file a complaint to establish paternity with the court. If the court is asked to establish paternity, it may order genetic testing if the presumed father contests that he is the biological father. If the outcome of the genetic test holds that the male in the case is indeed the father, the court will issue an order of paternity establishing the male as such.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Establishing paternity is important, and is something that may be complicated if you and the child’s other parent are in disagreement about who the legal father is. At the office of Heather Ward Law, our Massachusetts paternity lawyer can advise you regarding your options, and help you to open a paternity case with the court. In the event that paternity is established, our lawyer can guide you through what happens next, including filing a child custody and child support case.

To schedule a consultation with our lawyer, please call the office of Heather Ward Law directly at (617) 903-8955. You can also contact us by sending our law office a message telling us more about your case.