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How to Establish Paternity

Why Should I Establish Paternity?

Establishing paternity creates a legal connection between the child and the child's father. This connection gives the father both rights and responsibilities regarding his child.

How To Establish Paternity

Paternity means legally establishing the father of a child. The procedure for establishing that a person is the father of a child will depend upon the circumstances of your situation. Some procedures are fairly straightforward; others are more difficult. What you need to know about establishing paternity is listed below according to each circumstance.

Paternity was Established at the Hospital:

It is likely that you and the child's father signed an Acknowledgement of Parentage in the hospital when the child was born. Below is a chart with a timeline of the date the Acknowledgement was signed and its legal effect:

Date Signed Effect How to Challenge the cknowledgement
Before April 12, 1994 It creates a presumption of paternity. The person
Between April 13, 1994 - March 30, 1998

If signed when the child is less than 6 months old, the form creates a presumption of paternity. After 1 year, it has the effect of a court order.

If it was signed when the child was more than 6 months old, it has the effect of a court order.

Between signing the Acknowledgement and 1 year later, the person denying paternity can file a petition to rescind the acknowledgement and request a genetic marker test.

After 1 year has passed, or if the Acknowledgement was signed when the child was over 6 months old, challenging the paternity becomes difficult. If you still wish to challenge paternity, you should consult an attorney

After March 30, 1998 The Acknowledgement creates a presumption of paternity for 60 days after signing it. Once 60 days have passed, the Acknowledgement acts as a court order establishing paternity. The person denying paternity can file a petition to rescind the acknowledgement and request a genetic marker test within 60 days of signing the Acknowledgement. After 60 days have passed, because the Acknowledgement now has the effect of a court order, there are few methods of attaching it. If you still wish to challenge paternity, you should consult a lawyer.

You were not married when the child was born or conceived + The person admits he is the child's father

You and your child's father must sign a form, called a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage, which states that he is the father. You can do this at the following places:

  1. At the probate court.
  2. At the hospital where the child was born.
  3. At the town or city hall of the town or city where the child was born.

The form must be signed by you and the child's father in front of a notary public. Once you and the father have signed the form, you can file it at the Probate Court. You can also file a Complaint for Support, Custody and Visitation under M.G.L. 209C at that time if you wish to seek support and/or custody rights.

You were not married when the child was born or conceived + The person denies he is the father

If the father is unwilling to admit that he is the father, and if the father did not sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage, you may need to file a Complaint to Establish Paternity. This asks the court to legally establish that the person is the child's father. In order to prove that the person is the child's father, the judge may require the father to take a genetic marker test.

You were married to a person who was not the child's father when the child was born or conceived + You are seeking support from the person who is not your husband

If you were married during the time that the child was born or conceived to a person who is not the father of your child, then you will have to file a Complaint to Establish Paternity in order to legally establish the father of the child. This is so even if the father and your husband agree upon the child's father's identity. Additionally, your husband should file an Affidavit of Denial of Parentage stating that he is not the child's father.

You were married to a person who was not the child's father when the child was born or conceived + The child's father admits he is the father but your husband is unwilling to sign any forms

If you were married at the time the child was born or conceived to a person who is not the child's father and your husband is unwilling to sign an Affidavit of Denial of Parentage, then you must file a Complaint to Establish Paternity. You and the child's father must also file a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage.

You were married to a person other than the child's father when the child was born or conceived + The child's father denies that he is the father

In this situation, a judge is not likely to consider a claim that your husband is not the father of the child. You should consult an attorney if this is your situation.

You were married to a person who was not the child's father when the child was born or conceived and you are now divorced from that husband + In the divorce, the court determined that your husband was not the father of the child + You, the father and your former husband all agree who the father is

Even if the judge in your divorce case already determined that your former husband was not the father, you will still need to file a Complaint to Establish Paternity. You should also file with the Complaint a copy of the divorce judgment determining that your former husband is not the child's father. You and the child's father must also sign and file a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage.

You were married to a person who was not the child's father when the child was born or conceived and you are now divorced from that husband + In the divorce, the court determine that your former husband was the father of the child + You, your former husband and the father all agree that he is the father

If the court in a divorce has determined that your former husband was the father of the child, it is unlikely that a judge would consider your claim that someone else is the child's father. You should consult an attorney if this is your situation.

HOW TO PROVE PATERNITY

Genetic Marker Test: When you file a Complaint to Establish Paternity and there is no Acknowledgement, then the judge may order this scientific test to find out whether a person is the father of the child.

These tests can be expensive. If you are the party requesting the test, the judge may order you to pay for it at first. The judge may order the other party to pay you back if the test establishes that he is the father. Sometimes a judge may order the other party to pay for the test up front if you cannot afford the test. However, if the test shows that the other party is not the father, you may have to pay the other party back.

In some cases, you might be eligible to have the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pay for the test. In order to request the state to pay for the test, you must file an Affidavit of Indigency when you file the Motion for Genetic Marker Tests with the court.

Once the results of the genetic marker test are available, you will be notified. This can take approximately 3-4 weeks. If the test shows the person you say is the father actually is the father, you can file a Motion for Child Support . The judge will then review the test results and decide upon your request for child support

IF YOU NEED CHILD SUPPORT IMMEDIATELY

If you have filed your Complaint to Establish Paternity or any other paternity documents with the court and a Complaint for Support, Custody and Visitation and you need child support right away, you may be able to get it by requesting Temporary Orders. In order to ask for Temporary Orders, you can file a Motion for Child Support and request a Temporary Orders Hearing.

At the hearing, you can request temporary child support, which allows you to get temporary child support while you wait for a final judgment in your paternity case.

THINGS YOU SHOULD BE AWARE OF WHEN FILING A PATERNITY ACTION

If you file a paternity action with the court, you should know that the person you want to legally establish is the father of your child could request visitation or even custody of the child.

Visitation: Once you file a Complaint to Establish Paternity, the person you allege is the father now has an opportunity to seek visitation. If you do not think this is in your child's best interest, you should know that many times the court will grant the visitation rights to the other parent. You should think carefully about the risks and benefits of visitation and consult an attorney if you have concerns.

Custody: Sometimes, a person who is asked for support will seek custody of the child. If you were not married when the child was born or conceived, you automatically have custody of the child, but you should be prepared for the possibility that the person against whom you initiate custody proceedings will seek custody and seek the assistance of an attorney.

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