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How Massachusetts decides if a man is a child's father

The states all deal with establishing paternity in their own way, and it's important for unmarried fathers to know how this is going to work. In Massachusetts, the state will presume that a man is the father in the following situations:

1. If the man had been married to the mother in the past and if the child's birth happened within 300 days after the end of that marriage.

2. If he attempted to marry the mother, but it did not end up going through, and the birth happened within 300 days after the attempt.

3. If, after the child was born, the man said—perhaps in writing—that he would care for the child, and if he then tried to marry or successfully married the mother.

4. If the man and woman began living together after the child's birth, and if they openly acknowledged that the child was theirs.

5. If the man made a parental responsibility claim, saying he was the father, and if the mother did not object.

There is one more stipulation that applies to children born prior to April 13, 1994. In these cases, the man is presumed to be the father if he and the mother agree to list his name on the birth certificate.

There are some gray areas in here, of course, as the law is fairly open-ended, especially when referring to things like attempts to marry or acknowledgement that a child belongs to a man. As such, it's very important for parents to know what legal options they have when working to ensure that their rights are upheld.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "The Rights of Unmarried Fathers," accessed April 15, 2016

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