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Securing a father's rights when a child is born

It's crucial for fathers to understand how their relationship to a child is established, depending on the situation surrounding the child's birth. This can help them to secure their rights when going through a divorce in Massachusetts.

First off, a man is legally presumed to be the father if a child is born and the man and that child's mother are married. While it's true that this may not be the case -- if infidelity was involved, for example -- that assumption is made unless the truth is shown to be different.

The same presumption is made even if the mother was pregnant before the two got married. For example, if a couple was dating, found out that the woman was two months pregnant and decided to quickly marry before the child's birth, the same legal presumptions fall into place as if they'd gotten married two months earlier.

The difference comes if the parents wait until the child has already been born and then they get married. If this happens, a legitimation form has to be signed. This claims that the man is the child's father and gives him the rights he would have automatically gotten if the two had tied the knot before the birth.

Finally, for parents who don't get married, a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity may need to be used. This is similar to the legitimation form noted above, in that it establishes legal grounds to consider the man the child's father. Parents don't have to wait to do this. In fact, it's sometimes best to do it while still at the hospital following the birth, as the man's name can then be listed on the birth certificate.

If you're getting divorced, one of the most important things you can look into is exactly what rights you're going to have to be involved with your children. Always make sure you know where you stand and what you may need to do to secure those rights.

Source: FindLaw, "Chronology: Establishing Paternity," accessed Aug. 26, 2016

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