For parents who are seeking a divorce, who will get custody of the children is often the most controversial issues that parents will have to solve. And, what can be even more complex is when there is a debate over whether or not the father in the divorce is the actual father of the child (for women, a birth certificate is proof that the child is the mother’s biological child). This can leave many fathers wondering: Do I need to establish paternity in order to get custody of my child?
How Paternity Is Established in Massachusetts
Establishing paternity means establishing fatherhood over a child in order to obtain legal parental rights. In the vast majority of cases, paternity is established at the moment of a child’s birth; a father will sign an Acknowledgement of Parentage at the time that the child is born, which automatically gives him parental rights over that child.
In some cases though, an Acknowledgement of Parentage may not be signed at birth. This may be the case if a couple gives birth at home or outside of the hospital, if the couple is not married when the child is born, or if the father is not present when the child is born.
When an Acknowledgement of Parentage is not signed when a child is born, it is important that a father take action to establish paternity. In order to do so, he must go to probate court or the city/town hall where the child was born and sign the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form. The form must also be signed by a notary and by the child’s mother.
What Happens If You Do Not Establish Paternity
If you do not establish paternity, you will have no legal rights over your child in the event that something happens, including a divorce where the child’s mother is seeking custody. When this is the case, things can be much more complicated. If the mother denies that you are the child’s father, you may need to submit to genetic testing in order to prove it. In all cases, it is always easiest to establish paternity when the child is first born, or immediately thereafter, and can save time and trouble in the future.
How a Massachusetts Divorce Attorney Can Help You
If you are seeking a divorce in Massachusetts in which paternity is an issue, or if you have questions about your rights during divorce or child custody proceedings, the team at The Law Offices of Attorney Michael F. Mimno, Family Law Specialist, are ready to assist you. For answers to your toughest divorce questions and for legal experience you can trust, contact us now at 978-470-4567 or (603) 479-1152.