What is a Paternity Suit?
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the rights and responsibilities of unwed parents are outlined through a Paternity Order, rather than Custody and Visitation or Support Orders as with parents who were wed at the time their child was born. Paternity may also be established voluntary through the signing of an Acknowledgement of Parentage by both parents.
Paternity Orders or Acknowledgements of Parentage may be used to establish the identity of either a child’s father or his/her mother in the case where a surrogate was involved. Once a Paternity Order has been entered, or a voluntary acknowledgment has become final, it is incredibly difficult to vacate or rescind. This is because these orders and acknowledgements are entered by the court for the benefit of your child. Even where an individual can show they are not a child’s biological parent, an order may be kept in place because doing so is in the best interest of the child.
This being true, it is important to both parents and the child to have Genetic Marker Testing (also known as DNA or Paternity testing) done prior to voluntarily acknowledging paternity. Even if both parents are certain of the child’s paternity, having test results that show an individual is absolutely a child’s biological parent can avoid problems later.
Genetic Marker Testing is provided by the Department of Revenue for little or no cost (based on the parties’ needs.) You can fill out an application for services at their website, or file a motion in the Family and Probate Court for an order to have the testing done. Once this testing is done, both parents can voluntarily acknowledge paternity without any doubt, and feel secure in knowing they are making the right decision.
If you are currently considering voluntarily acknowledging paternity of a child, you should contact an attorney. Once you have acknowledged paternity, you have a wide variety of rights and responsibilities for the rest of your child’s life, it’s important that you understand them in full before you begin to navigate the process of obtaining an Order of Paternity.