Record numbers of children in Massachusetts are being born out of wedlock, but few parents stop to understand the legal implications. Sociologists suggest the increased numbers of children being born out of wedlock is caused by an American attitude that marriage is less important than it once was.
While it may be socially acceptable to have children born out of wedlock, those children in Massachusetts do not have the same rights as children born of married couples. Children born out of wedlock that are not legitimated through a court special proceeding or subsequent marriage are illegitimate.
Some differences in rights include:
- Illegitimate children may not inherit property from their father (except through a Last Will & Testament, voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, or an adjudication of paternity);
- Illegitimate children are not eligible for survivor's Social Security Benefits as a result of the death of the child's father (42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(2)(A); M.G.L. c. 190 § 5);
- In Massachusetts, the father of an illegitimate child may NOT have his parental rights terminated for the father's failure to legitimate the child (M.G.L. c. 119 § 26(4)) M.G.L. c. 210 § 3);
- The father of an illegitimate child does not have the same notice rights in an adoption proceeding involving the illegitimate child, unless the father has been adjudicated to be the father, but even if he has not been so adjudicated he may still file a parental responsibility claim to obtain the same notice rights (M.G.L. c. 210 § 4A);
- The birth certificate of a child who is legitimated will be changed to show the father's name (M.G.L. c. 46 § 13);
- Procedures for the establishment of child support are abbreviated. If a child is born out of wedlock, child support is established in paternity proceedings. If a child is born to married parents, child support is established during divorce proceedings. For "illegitimate" children, child support may be sought from the time of the child's birth. For children born of a marriage, child support may only be sought in a divorce dating back to the date of service of the complaint for divorce.
Fathers who are not married to mothers need to file actions to legitimate their children. For more information, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to learn of your rights.