What is the legal significance of establishing paternity?

A man in Massachusetts cannot assert his legal fathers’ rights unless paternity has been established. Although many people believe that putting a man’s name on a birth certificate establishes paternity, this is not actually true. Unless a man and a woman were married at the time of a child’s birth, there is no automatic assumption of paternity.

Paternity can be established after a child is born in a number of different ways. Both parents may sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, or a DNA test may be used to establish paternity. If an unmarried father does not legally establish paternity soon after his child is born, he could risk another man stepping in to voluntarily assume paternity. Another man could do this by marrying the mother and agreeing to sign a legitimation form.

Once paternity is legally established, a child’s father will be responsible for paying his share of the expenses for raising the child. The father will also have custody and visitation rights. If a mother tries to give her child up for adoption or allow a stepfather to adopt her child, the child’s father can stop these actions from going forward by refusing to provide his consent.

If a father was unmarried when his child was born and his relationship with the child’s mother has ended, it may be wise for the man to establish paternity as soon as possible. An attorney may be able to help a father in this situation to assert his fathers’ rights and ensure that paternity has been established. Every family’s situation is different, so this information should not be confused with legal advice.

Source: Findlaw, “Fathers’ Rights“, December 22, 2014

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