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Establishing Paternity in Massachusetts

Establishing paternity means recognizing someone as the legal father of a child. An official determination of paternity is beneficial for the child, mother and father, and it can be accomplished in a few different ways.

Importance of Paternity Determinations

Establishing paternity is important for both the parents and the child because it gives the parents specific legal rights and also provides several benefits for the child. Some of these benefits include:

  • Giving the child a sense of identity
  • Establishing mutual responsibility for the child's well-being
  • Allowing the child to know more about his or her family health history
  • Providing financial support for the child
  • Giving the child access to his or her parents' benefits such as health insurance or Social Security, pension, or inheritance in case of a parent's death

How to Establish Paternity

In Massachusetts, parents who are not married to each other can establish paternity by properly completing a paternity acknowledgment form or through a court order.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage

Paternity of a child may be established by signing a form called the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage in the presence of a notary. Once the form has been signed and notarized, the man becomes the legal father of the child and his name will be put on the child's birth certificate.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage forms are available at the following places:

  • Hospitals: Shortly after the birth of a child, parents can complete a paternity acknowledgement form while the mother and child are still in the hospital.
  • City or Town Clerk's Offices: Parents also may receive and complete the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form at the city or town clerk's office in the city or town where the child was born.
  • Registry of Vital Records and Statistics: Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage forms are also available from the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

Court Orders Establishing Paternity

Paternity also may be established by a court order. In court proceedings, a judge may order a mother, child and possible father to undergo paternity tests. A judge reviews the test results and other relevant information before determining whether the man is the child's biological father. If so, a court order will be produced that establishes the man as the child's legal father.

Paternity Tests

Paternity tests use DNA to determine whether a man is the biological father of a child. DNA samples may be collected in a blood draw or by simply swiping the inside of one's cheek with a cotton swab. DNA is extracted from the blood or saliva and compared among the mother, child and possible father to assess whether their DNA's unique characteristics match and indicate a biological relationship.

If you have questions about paternity tests or establishing paternity for a child, contact an experienced child custody lawyer in your area.

Source: Paternity Establishment in Massachusetts

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