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The basics of establishing paternity

When you are in a married or long-term, committed relationship, it is often assumed by the couple, and the courts, that paternity is well-established. More often than this, this issue won’t arise in a relationship. But if the biological fatherhood of a child is uncertain, all sorts of problems can arise. This does not just include the obvious child support payment issue. There are higher stakes that could be prevalent, such as naming an heir, adoption and others.

In Massachusetts, unwed couples who have a child can have the father listed on the birth certificate, a process called establishing “presumption of paternity.” For couples who stay together and rear the child, this is usually enough. But if they decide to split up, presumption of paternity is not enough to get child support or establish custody and visitation rights.

Proving you are or are not the father is as simple as a DNA test. Of course, if the mother does not want to allow such a test, the courts can order it if you have sufficient evidence to do so. A paternity test could also prove useful if you have been named the father of a child you are not sure is yours. A negative DNA test could absolve you from obligations such as child support.

This does not apply to just unwed couples, either. If you learn that your spouse was unfaithful and that could have led to the birth of your child, a paternity test may be in order. You could be relieved of any legal duties to the child, and could also seek child support from the biological father.

If you are seeking a paternity test and your partner is not allowing it, an experienced family law attorney may be able to help you petition the courts for one.

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