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Massachusetts Law About Paternity

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Paternity Issues: Family Law Advocacy for Low and Moderate Income Litigants, 2d ed., 2008, Chapter 7. Mass. Legal Services. Includes how to establish paternity, how to answer a complaint, and custody and visitation, with checklists and sample forms.

Massachusetts Laws

Federal Laws

42 USC 651 et seq. Child Support and Establishment of Paternity


Paternity Forms

Selected Case Law

Cosgrove v. Hughes, 78 Mass. App. Ct. 739 (2011). "If a decedent has acknowledged paternity of a person born out of wedlock . . . that person is heir of his father." The child does not have to prove a biological connection.

Custody of Zia, 50 Mass. App. Ct. 237 (2000) Father was entitled to sole legal and physical custody of child born out of wedlock where mother was "deficient and obstructive."

Department of Revenue v. Roe, 29 Mass. App. Ct. 967 (1990) This case authorizes orders for current and back child support and the provision for health insurance.

Department of Revenue v. Ryan R., 62 Mass. App. Ct. 380 (2004) A mother could bring a paternity action for child support against a putative father even though she was married to another man at the time of the child's birth and her husband was listed as the child's father on the birth certificate.

D.H. v. R.R., 461 Mass. 756 (2012). Outlines the history and procedure for a putative father to of a child born to a married woman to bring a paternity action. In this case, the putative father did not know the mother was married when the child was born, and the husband had not "executed an affidavit denying his paternity during the mother's lifetime, and thus the voluntary acknowledgement of parentage [by the putative father] was not effective as a matter of law and lacked the force or effect of a judgment of paternity."

G.E.B. v. S.R.W, 422 Mass. 158 (1996) A child was not bound by a prior settlement agreement of her mother and father where she was not a party and the mother was not the legal representative of the child. The court therefore affirmed a paternity order brought by the child against the father.

Gray v. Massachusetts Commissioner of Revenue, 422 Mass. 666 (1996) DOR could seize a father's bank account to satisfy an order for back child support. A levy was effected even though the father was in compliance with a court order to pay the amount due in small weekly installments.

L.W.K. v. E.R.C., 432 Mass. 438 (2000) Valid child support order remained in force until a child's emancipation, and was not extinguished by the father's death even when he had disinherited the child born out of wedlock.

Lowell v. Kowalski, 380 Mass. 663 (1980) When paternity is conceded, there is no justification for denying the right of a child to inherit from his or her natural father.

O'Connell v. Greenwood, 59 Mass. App. Ct. 147 (2003) Absent clear provisions in the paternity judgment to the contrary, mother who shared legal custody of a child born out of wedlock is not prohibited from (1) enrolling child in school using last name of mother's husband; (2) insisting that child call mother's husband "daddy;" nor (3) instructing child's school not to release child to father.

Paternity of Cheryl, 434 Mass. 23 (2001). More than five years after he had voluntarily acknowledged paternity, a man underwent DNA tests which determined that he was not the child's father. He then brought this action to vacate the paternity judgment. The court held that he was still liable to support the child because of the "compelling public interest in the finality of paternity judgments," the clear intent of G.L. c.209C, sec. 11 to limit the ability of a man who voluntarily acknowledges paternity to then challenge it, and the best interests of the child.

Other Web Sources

Answers to Common Questions for Never-Married Parents, Hampshire County Probate and Family Court. Includes information on paternity testing, voluntary acknowledgement and more.

Child Support/Paternity Cooperation: Your Rights Under Welfare Reform, Mass. Law Reform Institute.

Paternity for Unmarried Parents, Mass. Legal Services. Information for mothers on deciding to bring a paternity action and the process and forms for doing so.

Paternity Guide for Unmarried Parents, Mass. Dept. of Revenue, 2007. In a question and answer format, includes information about establishing paternity.

Paternity Information, Hampshire County Probate and Family Court. Includes information, guides and forms regarding paternity.

Print Sources

Disputed Paternity Proceedings, by Nina M. Vitek. Matthew Bender, looseleaf.

Handbook of Massachusetts Family Law, 4th ed., by Gerald D. McLellan. Lawyers Weekly Publications, 1999 with supplement. chap. 23. (Includes forms)

Massachusetts Domestic Relations, 4th ed., by John V. Harvey et al. Lexis Publishing, 2003 with supplement, vol. 2, chap. 23 (Includes forms)

Massachusetts Practice, vol. 3 (Family Law & Practice 4th ed.) Thomson/West, 2013, chap. 89 (includes forms on disk). 

Paternity and the Law of Parentage in Massachusetts, 2d ed., MCLE, 2009 (Includes forms).