Worcester Paternity Attorneys

couple sitting next to each other looking upset

Unmarried parents face different legal hurdles compared to parents who have children in wedlock. Namely, fathers who want to spend time with their children and mothers who want fathers to pay child support must take the added step of establishing paternity first. Establishing paternity has profound effects on such matters as child custody, child support, and visitation. If you’re an unmarried mother or father who is ready to seek your rights through a paternity action, it’s time to speak with SederLaw.

Why Paternity Matters

When parents who are married to each other have children, the husband is presumed to be the child’s father. But this isn’t the case when unmarried parents have a child. The father’s paternity must be proven. Once this step is taken, both parents have the right to initiate certain legal actions. For instance:

  • The mother can file a petition to order the father to pay child support
  • The father can file a petition to establish a parenting plan or seek custody
  • Both parents can start making important decisions that will affect the child’s future

There are two main ways to establish paternity: either an order must be issued by the court or the parents must sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.

Seeking a Paternity Order

To show that an unmarried man is the father of the child in question, either parent can file a Complaint to Establish Paternity. The same form can be used to seek an order:

  • Setting child support
  • Requiring a parent to provide health insurance coverage for the child
  • Preventing one parent from limiting the liberty of the other parent or the child
  • Granting custody of the child
  • Granting parenting time to the child

There are usually two situations in which a paternity action is initiated:

  • The parents are not married at the time the child is born and one or both parents doubt the paternity
  • The parents are divorcing or separating and the assumed father suspects the child is not actually his

Genetic testing is typically used to establish paternity and can be obtained for a relatively low cost. Other evidence establishing paternity may be presented in addition to the DNA test.

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity

When the child is born, the father has the right to declare paternity at the hospital. This can be done if both parents sign a notarized Acknowledgment of Parentage form. If both parents sign this document, and neither rescinds their signature within 60 days of doing so, the form has the same legal effect as a paternity order.

It should be emphasized that the parents only have 60 days to rescind their acknowledgment of the child’s paternity. They should be sure the man is the father before signing this document. Once the 60 days expire, it’s very difficult to reverse the acknowledgment. The courts allow just one year to request a reversal and the grounds to do so are narrow:

  • Fraud
  • Duress
  • A material mistake of fact

Even if you believe the man is the father, it is strongly recommended that a DNA test be taken before signing an acknowledgment. To begin with, foregoing a genetic test will not qualify as a material mistake of fact sufficient to reverse an acknowledgment of paternity. Also, even if it turns out that the man isn’t the father – and this is proven later with a DNA test – the court may allow the acknowledgment to stand anyway. That’s because allowing the order to remain in effect may be viewed as being in the child’s best interest, which is the paramount standard that guides all family court matters involving children.

The Effects of Establishing Paternity

Whether due to an Order of Paternity or an Acknowledgement of Parentage, a determination that the man is the child’s father has the same effect as if the child had been born in wedlock. All the rights and obligations of parenthood are granted to the mother and father.

Before paternity being established, the mother has sole custody of the child by default. That means the mother not only has physical custody of the child but also legal custody, which entails the right to make major decisions for the child. After paternity is established, the father can ask the court to grant him custody or visitation rights.

The mother can also ask for a child support order obligating the father to pay for the needs of the child. This may be changed if the court grants custody to the father, however. But if you as the father don’t have custody, the mother may ask for an order that requires direct payment to the mother or payment through the Department of Revenue, as appropriate.

How A Paternity Lawyer Can Help

We can review your situation and advise you of the steps needed to establish paternity. If the other parent is willing to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, we can help you complete the necessary paperwork. Otherwise, we will take action with a court petition and genetic testing. We will also advise you of the legal consequences of establishing paternity and likely recommend a DNA test even if you and the other parent are ready to sign an acknowledgment.

Contact Our Worcester Paternity Lawyers at SederLaw

Whether you are the unmarried father or mother of your child, we know how important it is for paternity to be settled. After this matter is addressed, we can assist you with the next steps such as seeking visitation or custody rights or a child support order. SederLaw handles all aspects of Massachusetts family law and we can answer any questions or concerns you have concerning the above issues. Give us a call today to learn more.

SederLaw helps clients with paternity rights in Worcester from their primary office as well as clients throughout MetroWest from their Westborough office.

Practice Area Team