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What rights does an unmarried father in Massachusetts have?

Becoming a parent means assuming responsibility for a child. Parents must provide daily support and financial resources so that children are safe and have the basic necessities of life, including shelter and adequate nutrition. They need to ensure their children receive an education and necessary medical care. Although parents typically enjoy equal rights under the law, not all parents understand and make use of their rights.

Some fathers in Massachusetts automatically have parental rights because they married the mother of their child before or during her pregnancy. The state applies a presumption of paternity in such cases, and the father will typically automatically have his name included on the birth certificate. If he and his wife later divorce, a shared custody order will probably follow.

Unmarried fathers, in theory, have all of the same rights as married fathers and also mothers, but they may not know their rights and might fail to take the necessary steps to make use of them. How can a Massachusetts father make use of his rights under family law statutes?

He can establish parentage

Parentage, called paternity in many states, is the formal recognition of someone’s parental role by the state. The process of establishing parentage can be relatively quick if the mother of the child cooperates. Voluntary paperwork executed by both parents can add the father to the birth certificate and put him in a position to make use of his parental rights.

If the mother does not want to acknowledge the father and refuses to fill out paperwork, then the father may need to ask the Massachusetts family courts for help. A judge could order a mother to present a child for genetic testing to validate a claim of parentage. Provided that the test establishes that a man is a child’s father, he would then have the right to request shared custody, including both time with the child and decision-making authority.

Too many men are unaware of their rights and, therefore, don’t get to play an active role in the lives of their children. Seeking legal guidance to learn about Massachusetts laws regarding child custody and parental rights can benefit those who want to have a relationship with their children.