Paternity Actions in Family Court
In Massachusetts, paternity actions are generally brought by one parent when the other parent is not listed on the birth certificate in order to establish paternity and to obtain child support and/or custody and visitation rights. There are two means of addressing Paternity, Acknowledgement of Parentage and a Paternity Order. The most simplistic means of establishing Paternity is through an Acknowledgement of Parentage that is signed by both parents.
This can first occur at the hospital when your child is born, where both parents have the opportunity to sign a notarized “Acknowledgment of Parentage” form. If both parents sign this form (and the 60 day window to rescind has passed), the acknowledgement has the same legal effect as a Paternity Order. Once paternity is established, it becomes final. For example, if it has been established through a Paternity order or Acknowledgement of Parentage that an individual is a minor’s parent, even if that individual can show they are not the minor’s biological parent, an order may be kept in place because doing so is in the best interest of the child. Due to this, both parents and the child are encouraged to have Genetic Marker Testing (also known as DNA or Paternity testing) done prior to voluntarily acknowledging paternity that can be provided by the Department of Revenue for nominal costs.
If a Paternity action is filed, meaning the Acknowledgement of Parentage was never signed, then the Court will generally order a Genetic Marker Testing at the start of the case before evaluating custody/parenting time or child support. Once paternity is verified by the Genetic Marker Testing, then the Court will enter a finding of paternity and will address the issues of custody, parenting time, and child support. Again, an Acknowledgment of Paternity can also be signed in lieu of the Genetic Marker Testing.