Burke Levy, P.C.

It takes more than biology to be recognized as a legal father

Like many other men here in Massachusetts, one of your goals in life was to become a father. That day may have come, but you weren't married to your child's mother. You both may have assumed that since your name is on the birth certificate, the law recognizes you as the father, but you would be mistaken.

The only time the law assumes that a man is the legal father of a child is when the biological parents are married to each other. In any other case, biology isn't enough. You and the mother may sign a voluntarily acknowledgement of paternity, but you must do this within a certain time frame. Otherwise, you will need to go to court in order to obtain your legal rights as a father.

Why it's important to establish paternity

When you legally establish paternity, you gain all the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood. You may ask the court for custody and/or visitation, and you become obligated to financially support your child. You aren't the only one who benefits, however. Your child gains certain rights when the courts legally recognize you as his or her father as well:

  • Your child becomes eligible to receive veteran's and Social Security benefits from you.
  • Your child gains access to your life insurance and medical benefits.
  • Your child becomes eligible to inherit from you upon your death.
  • Your child gains the chance to develop a relationship with you.
  • Your child may enjoy a connection and sense of identity from knowing both sides of the family.

Taking care of your child involves more than visitation and child support. Being legally recognized as the father also allows you to enjoy a larger role in your child's life.

What it takes to establish paternity

In the absence of a voluntary acknowledgment, you will need to go to court in order to gain legal recognition as your child's father. If the mother has no objections and does not intend to fight with you over paternity, then the two of you may come to an agreement on your own that the court may approve.

Otherwise, you may need to go through DNA testing in order to gain your legal rights as a father. In either case, it may be helpful to understand all your legal rights and options before moving forward.

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