What is Paternity?
Paternity is legally establishing fatherhood.
If I’m married to the father/mother of my child does paternity need to be established?
No. If you are married and your name (or your spouse’s name) is on the birth certificate you do not need to establish Paternity. If for some reason the spouse’s name is not on the birth certificate, it is fairly simply to correct and no legal action needs to be taken.
Why establish Paternity?
- Financial Support
- Public Assistance Benefits
- A sense of identity and acknowledgement for the child
- Insurance Benefits
- Health Information
Do I have to go to court?
Yes, you sometimes have to go to court, but if both parents agree that they want Paternity to be established it is a simple procedure.
- Both parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (link: http://www.masslegalhelp.org/children-and-families/forms/voluntary-acknowledgement-of-parentage.pdf) shortly after the birth of the baby (no fee). This can be done at the Hospital where the baby is born OR it can be filed in the city or town where the child resides (may be a small fee).
- Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (link: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/health-stats/vitals/) – Parents can complete the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage and mail it in for a fee of $25.00.
Contested Paternity (i.e going to court)
- Either the mother or the purported father can file a Complaint for Paternity action in their local Probate and Family Court.
- This can assist the custodial parent in getting child support.
- This can start court ordered visitation and child support.
- The parents can also (if they chose) have a custody agreement through the court.
What if I said I was the father (or I said someone was the father) but I now think I’m (he’s) not?
YOU MUST FILE AN ACTION IN PROBATE AND FAMILY COURT WITHIN 60 DAYS TO RESCIND THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PARENTAGE (MAKE IT NULL AND VOID).
If you suspect later that you are not the father – you must file a case within one year in the Probate and Family Court and it’s limited to grounds of mistake of fact, duress or fraud. There may be some instances where the action can be brought after one year, but each case is litigated on a case by case basis.
In these instances the Court will often order a genetic marker case.