There are several ways to establish paternity of a child born out of wedlock to unwed parents. The primary method is to name the father on the birth certificate at the time of the child’s birth. However, paternity can also be established through adjudication by the court. We have helped many unwed parents establish legal paternity for children born out of wedlock.
If both parents acknowledge the father, the couple can establish paternity at the hospital. If there is a question about who the father is, you can establish paternity through genetic testing. Once paternity has been established, the court will use child support guidelines to determine what the support needs are, and whether the child support is paid by the mother or the father. The court will look at the best interests of the child to determine custody and visitation rights.
If you believe that you are the father of a child but did not sign any papers at the hospital, we can help you establish your paternity. If it is determined that you are the father, the court can enter custody, visitation, and support orders in the best interests of the child.
When unwed couples separate, they have the same responsibility to their children as married couples who divorce. Children are entitled to financial support by both parents until they are emancipated, which usually occurs at age 18, 21, or 23 in Massachusetts, depending on the child’s circumstances and whether the child is in school.
A child in Massachusetts is entitled to financial support and medical insurance from the date of birth. However, if paternity is not established until a later time, the court has discretion as to whether or not past support will be ordered. Once a child support order is established, it cannot be modified retroactively. For these reasons, if you are seeking to establish or modify a child support order, it is important to file a support action with the court as soon as possible. Child support and visitation are not dependent upon one another.