Family Law
Massachusetts Paternity

Paternity: When a Child is Born Outside of Marriage

How Paternity Is Established In Massachusetts

If the parents were not married when the child was born, paternity may be in 1 of 2 ways:

  1. Acknowledgment: The father may admit paternity, by signing a written acknowledgment which is filed with the birth registrar in the city where the child was born.
  2. Court order: When paternity is challenged by the alleged father, the Massachusetts family court may hear a proceeding to prove or disprove paternity.

Either parent may initiate a Court proceeding by way of a Complaint to Establish Paternity for the purpose of having an acknowledgement or adjudication of paternity made by the Court.  This is what occurs when there is no father listed on the child’s birth certificate, but there is a reasonable suspicion that the father is known.

Children born to parents who are not married to each other are entitled to the same rights and protections of the law as all other children. Accordingly, a Complaint to Establish Paternity in addition to determining who the father of the child is, can also establish Orders for child support, custody, visitation, health insurance, uninsured medical expenses and education. After a Complaint to Establish Paternity is filed, the Court, on motion of either party, can order DNA/Genetic Marker Testing, the results of which are usually expressed as a statistical probability. If the report of such test indicates a statistical probability of paternity of 97% or greater, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the putative father is the father of such child.

If a party refuses to submit to a Genetic Marker Test, the refusal shall be admissible and the Court may draw an adverse inference from such refusal. If during the probable period of conception, the mother of the child was married to someone other than the putative father, the Court may still order Genetic Marker Testing after notice has been provided to the spouse or former spouse of mother. In a Paternity proceeding, the Court may also award past or retroactive support from the time of birth until the Temporary or Permanent Order goes into effect.

If a child is born out of wedlock and the child’s father is properly identified on the child’s birth certificate, then a Complaint to Establish Paternity is not necessary.  As long as a copy of the birth certificate is provided or the acknowledgment of paternity, the parent seeking judicial relief can file a Complaint for Custody/Visitation/Support and request a motion hearing right away to get the case moving forward quickly.  At the temporary order hearing, the Court will enter an order of custody and child support and an appropriate parenting time schedule that is in the child’s best interests.

Whether you need to establish paternity or are trying to fight it, at the Wright Family Law Group we have the knowledge and the experience to help you effectively present your case.

Putting off the inevitable is not going to help you – it will only work against you in the long run. Call us today to discuss your own personal situation and let us see how we can help. 978-851-2291, or contact us online.

For your convenience, appointments may be scheduled during flexible hours. Our office is centrally located in Tewksbury near Route 93 and Route 495. We serve clients in Middlesex and Essex County.

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