The laws and procedures governing adjudication of paternity disputes as to children born out of wedlock is governed by M.G.L. chapter 209C. The underlying policy of this chapter is that “children born to parents who are not married to each other shall be entitled to the same rights and protections of the law as all other children.”
M.G.L chapter 209C provides two methods of establishing that a person is the parent of a child born out of wedlock.
1) a voluntary acknowledgment of parentage filed with the court by both parents; or
2) a judicial adjudication of paternity.
Paternity may be established by the filing of a voluntary acknowledgment of parentage which has been executed by both the father and affirmed by the mother of the child. The acknowledgment is made on the official Acknowledgement of Paternity form promulgated by the Trial Court of Massachusetts. It must then be filed and registered in the Probate and Family Court, a district court or the Boston Municipal Court if a care and protection action is filed under M.G.L. c. 119, § 24 the juvenile court may accept registration of a voluntary acknowledgment of parentage. The acknowledgment must be made in the presence of a notary public.
Upon approval a registered acknowledgment of paternity has the same force and effect as judgment adjudicating paternity.
M.G.L. c. 209C provides that if the child is less than six months of age the filed acknowledgment creates a presumption of parentage. In this case, either parent has one year from the execution of the acknowledgment in which to request blood and genetic marker tests and the results can be introduced as evidence on the issue of paternity; if no such request is made the acknowledgment has the same effect of a judgment of paternity.
A complaint about the adjudication of parentage may be commenced in a district court, the Boston Municipal Court or the Probate and Family Court, all of which have concurrent jurisdiction over paternity cases. The juvenile court also has concurrent jurisdiction to adjudicate paternity if the action is consolidated with a pending care and protection proceeding.
The district courts and the Boston Municipal Court have no jurisdiction to determine custody or visitation rights in paternity actions and if the paternity complaint includes a request for an order relative to custody and visitation it must be commenced in the Probate and Family Court.
Contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar to learn more about your rights under the parentage laws in Massachusetts.