Establishing Paternity in Massachusetts

When a child is born to two married parents, they are placed on the child’s birth certificate. However, when parents are unmarried, paternity must be legally established in order for the non-birth parent to appear on the child’s birth certificate and have legal rights. This is an important step since it also involves future rights of the child.

So, how is paternity established in Massachusetts?

Voluntary Vs. Involuntary

Paternity can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. When both parents agree on who the non-birth parent is, they both sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage” in front of a notary pubic, establishing paternity voluntarily. This acknowledgement is then filed with the Registry of Vital Records, officially establishing paternity.

Establishing paternity involuntarily is a longer process, involving a court order of paternity. The process begins with the petitioner filing a “Complaint to Establish Paternity” in family court. A judge may order DNA testing to prove paternity. Once it is established, the judge will issue an official order of paternity and the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate.

Why Establishing Paternity is Important?

Establishing paternity is about more than just a name on a birth certificate. It involves the rights of all involved. Once paternity is established, rights of custody, visitation and may be established. The child will also be able to benefit from the parent’s estate, health insurance, and social security and veteran’s benefits.

Establishing involuntary paternity can turn into a long process, especially if parents do not agree on support and custody rights. Individuals facing this situation should seek the help of a family law attorney, ready to advocate in the best interests of the child.