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Unmarried dads have custody rights after establishing paternity

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2021 | Divorce

Many couples welcoming new children into the world are not married couples. It is more common than ever for people to have long-term, domestic relationships without involving the state. There is no rule that says you have to marry the mother of your child to be a dedicated and loving father.

However, asserting your rights as a father can be slightly more difficult when you are not the spouse of the mother. What will you need to do as an unmarried father in Massachusetts who wants the state to recognize his relationship with his child?

You need to formally establish paternity or parentage

Married dads have a presumption of paternity that does not extend to unwed fathers. Unmarried fathers theoretically have the same rights as parents of any marital status or sex. Still, they often have to take extra steps if they want to assert those rights.

Establishing paternity is necessary if an unmarried father wants to ask for visitation or shared custody rights. Rather than waiting for issues to arise in your relationship with the mother, the best approach for an unmarried father in Massachusetts is often to establish paternity right after the birth of a child. If the mother cooperates with you, you won’t have to go to court.

Massachusetts acknowledges paternity through paperwork, not just testing

You and the mother of your child have the option of cooperating regarding your paternity at any point. You can fill out paperwork together right at the hospital after the birth of your child. You could also fill out paperwork together at any point while your child is still a minor. A Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage will make you the legal father and add your name to the birth certificate of your child.

For this simple solution to apply, you need to know you are the father, and the mother has to agree to acknowledge you. In cases where the mother will not cooperate, family court hearings and genetic testing may be necessary.

Once the father effectively establishes paternity, he has the right then to ask for parenting rights. Knowing the Massachusetts approach to establishing paternity or parentage can help unmarried fathers protect their relationships with their children.