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How is paternity established in Massachusetts?

In the state of Massachusetts, establishing paternity is an important process when a child is born out of wedlock. Paternity must be officially established and recorded before a court can decide on issues like child support payments, custody and visitation. Fortunately, there is a well-defined process in the state for establishing paternity. The child's parents simply need to file the appropriate paperwork with either the clerk in the city where the child was born or the registrar of vital records.

Paternity is easiest to establish when both parents are in agreement as to who is the child's father. In that case, the two parents simply execute the specific filings. At that point, the clerk will forward the paternity information on to the registrar in the form of an acknowledgement or order establishing paternity. The acknowledgement will also include important statistical information, including the names, addresses and social security numbers of the parents and the child. Once the acknowledgement is certified, the parents may finalize any other issues like child support and visitation in court.

The clerk can also submit an acknowledgement of paternity based on the findings of a court-ordered pursuit to an action to establish paternity. Of course, this would happen if there is dispute about the actual paternity. Either parent may pursue legal action that results in a court order to determine the true paternity. Additionally, clerks will not process acknowledgements of paternity if paternity has already been established in another state or another country. Rather, that state's or country's findings will be accepted as establishment of paternity in Massachusetts.

Paternity can sometimes be a complex and sensitive issue. In some cases, one parent may not be completely cooperative in the paternity establishment process. Often, unwed mothers may need to establish paternity to proceed with child support actions. On the other hand, a father may wish to establish paternity to protect his custody and visitation rights. Either party may benefit from consulting with a family law attorney who could advise them on how best to move forward.

Source: The General Court, "Section 2 Paternity; acknowledgment or adjudication; statistical information of parties; transmission to registrar", November 14, 2014

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