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How paternity is established in Massachusetts

Residents of Massachusetts may establish paternity with the court by filing with the court, the city clerk or the registrar of vital records. If the documentation is passed through a clerk or registrar, these entities are responsible for sending it to the state juvenile court. The court may also collect personal information about the parents and child. The information that the court or registrar may request include the names, Social Security numbers, ages, dates of birth and addresses of the mother, father and child.

If paternity is not voluntarily established with the court, any party may seek to make such a registration. Establishment of paternity with the court is necessary in order to maintain fathers' rights. The court must have proof of paternity in order to assign visitation rights and shared custody of a child.

In order to enforce the obligations and rights related to paternity, the court may order proof of paternity. Such proof may be requested in order to confer custody rights as well as shared custody and visitation rights for the father and paternal grandparents. Paternity claims may be proven or disproved by way of paternity tests such as DNA testing. Once paternity is established by the court, additional actions such as orders for child support may commence in family court.

Establishment of paternity provides a father with rights to access with a child. If either parent desires to establish or challenge paternity claims, this must be done through juvenile court. An attorney may be able to provide guidance on paternity actions and custody rights to a client who is seeking those rights.

Source: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "Section 2Paternity; acknowledgment or adjudication; statistical information of parties; transmission to registrar", October 15, 2014

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