There are two ways paternity is established in Massachusetts. The first way is through the voluntary acknowledgment process. A voluntary acknowledgement is a legal form signed by the Mother and the Father acknowledging the child’s paternity. The form must be notarized and each party is informed of the right to seek genetic marker testing (sometimes referred to as DNA testing). Paternity acknowledgements are often completed at the hospital as part of processing the child’s birth certificate. They can also be completed with the City clerk at town or city hall. Do not execute a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity unless you are 100% sure of the child’s paternity.
You only have 60 days to rescind the Acknowledgment and only one-year to “un-do” paternity in a court, and you must prove fraud. As a matter of public policy, Massachusetts paternity laws do not make it easy and in most circumstances, it is impossible to “un-do” paternity.
The second way paternity is established is through the court process. Either the Mother or the man believing he is the Father can file a Complaint to Establish Paternity. Most court-based paternity cases will result in the court ordering the parties and the child to submit to genetic marker testing. Parties can privately pay for genetic marker testing or can apply for the services of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) and request they facilitate the genetic marker testing. In order to have testing facilitated by DOR, you need a court order for the testing.
After the results of the genetic marker testing, the Judge can issue a court order which formally establishes the Child’s paternity. The child’s birth certificate can then be amended to add the Father’s name. The court will likely establish a child support order, including a provision for the child’s medical insurance, and a parenting plan.
For more information, please contact Cunnally Law Group, LLC, Massachusetts Family Law attorneys and mediators, at (508) 346-3805.