Paternity is the relationship between a child and his or her biological father. Massachusetts paternity leave law cases can become somewhat complicated, and there are important timing issues to consider if challenging paternity.
Paternity in Different Family Structures
Massachusetts presumes the paternity of a child born to a married woman is that of her husband. The husband's name is automatically listed on the child's birth certificate.
If the husband is not the child's biological father, the husband must sign a notarized denial of paternity and the biological father must sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity. Failure to complete the process correctly will result in the husband's name listed on the birth certificate, notwithstanding the actual genetic factors.
If a child is born to a woman who is not married, the father's name will not appear on the child's birth certificate unless paternity is established.
How to Establish Paternity
There are two ways paternity is established in Massachusetts.
1. Voluntary Acknowledgment
A voluntary acknowledgement is a legal form signed by the mother and father acknowledging the child's paternity.
The form must be notarized and each party is informed of the right to seek also referred to as DNA testing. Frequently, paternity acknowledgements are completed at the hospital as part of processing the child's birth certificate. The paperwork can also be completed with the City clerk at town or city hall.
You should not execute a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity unless you are 100% sure of the child's paternity.
The Clock is Ticking…
Within 60 days, you can rescind the acknowledgment of paternity, and there is a one-year time period to “un-do” paternity in a court and fraud must be shown.
There are court cases where a man finds out years later that “his” child is actually the biological child of someone else. As a matter of public policy, Massachusetts law makes it difficult—and in most circumstances impossible—to “un-do” paternity. As mentioned above, even after discovering through scientific evidence that an individual is not the biological dad, that same person can be required to pay child support.
Thus, if you have a potential paternity issue it is not the time to procrastinate after you procreate.
2. Establishing Paternity Through the Court Process
Either mom or the man believing he is the father may file a Complaint to Establish Paternity in Massachusetts. Most court-based paternity cases will result in the court ordering the parties and the child to submit to DNA testing.
Individuals can pay for DNA testing on their own, or apply to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) and request they facilitate the DNA testing. In order to have testing facilitated by DOR, you first need a court order.
After the results of the DNA testing, the judge can issue a court order formally establishing the child's paternity. The child's birth certificate will be amended to add the father's name. The court will also usually establish a child support order, including a provision for the child's medical insurance. A parenting (custody) plan may also be determined at this time.
Need Help Establishing Paternity?
Establishment of a child's paternity is important not only for the child, but for the father. For the child, obviously a known (and involved) father provides the child a sense of identity and connection to their family members.
Paternity protects inheritance and child support rights. A child could be entitled to health insurance benefits, social security benefits, or veteran's benefits. Clearly, a father has a responsibility and is legally required to provide financial support to his child, thus determining paternity is important for establishing a child support order through the Probate and Family Court.
Next Phase Legal is adapt at handling family law matters like establishing paternity in Massachusetts. We can help your family today.