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Parents of Children Born Out of Wedlock – Fathers Beware

Posted by Michael Lambert | Apr 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

If you are the biological father of a child born outside of marriage, there are significant legal rights and financial obligations at issue.  Unmarried fathers may be surprised to learn that they are obligated to pay child support from the date of the child's birth even if they are not aware that they have a child.  Once declared the father, the court will generally make fathers pay retroactive child support from the child's birth to the date that the child support order is entered.  In addition, until paternity is established and the court enters an order, the father has no custodial or visitation rights.  That means that the mother can unilaterally make all decisions pertaining to the child and she can deny the father visitation.  As a result, a father of a child born out of wedlock in Massachusetts could be made to pay child support retroactively even if the mother does not permit him see his child.  Thus, it is important that unmarried parents understand the ramifications of establishing paternity along with the corresponding visitation rights and child support responsibilities.

Establishing Paternity

Before visitation and child support can be ordered a father of a child born outside of marriage must legally establish paternity.  Paternity can be established if both parents properly complete and sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form.  This form is typically completed at the hospital shortly after the child is born, but the form can be signed at any time.  If the parents cannot agree to sign the form, then paternity can be established by filing a paternity case in court.  The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judges can legally declare a man to be the father.  Generally, if either party affirms that they had sexual intercourse with the other during the probable period of conception, genetic marker testing will be ordered.  If the genetic marker testing results reveal a probability of paternity of at least 97 percent then the court will declare the man to be the father.

Visitation and Retroactive Child Support

Even if paternity is established, a father has no legally enforceable right to custody or visitation without a court order.  Thus, a father does not have the authority to visit with his biological child unless the mother agrees, or the Massachusetts Court enters an order permitting visitation and/or custody.  If the mother does not allow the father to see his child or the father does not obtain court ordered visitation, the father is still obligated to pay child support.  This is the case even if the father did not know that he has a child.  The court will likely order retroactive child support from the date of the child's birth to the present time.  This will be in addition to all current and future child support obligations that the noncustodial parent will be obligated to pay until the child is emancipated.

Paternity issues can be complicated and there is a lot at stake when a child is born to unmarried parents.  If you have questions about your paternity case, please do not hesitate to call the experienced attorneys at Lambert Legal for a no obligation consultation at 781-754-6822.

About the Author

Michael Lambert

About Attorney Lambert Attorney Lambert is an experienced Massachusetts courtroom litigator and competent negotiator. Having logged significant time in the courtroom Attorney Lambert is a poised and confident advocate. Outside of court he has built a successful track record of negotiating favo...


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