If the father or mother wants to establish paternity of a child in Massachusetts, then either party can file a Complaint to Establish Paternity with the Probate and Family Court. If the presumed father denies or is unsure that he is the father of the child, the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division can perform a paternity test if the mother requests DOR services. This usually takes 6-8 weeks, and can be required by the court if the presumed father refuses to participate. The parties can also obtain a private test which is usually faster but will likely cost approximately $600.
Once the test is performed, the court can adjudicate the father to be a legal parent based on the results of the test. While most genetic marker tests will return a probability of 0% or 99.9% the legal standard in Massachusetts only requires greater than 97% certainty:
"If such report indicates a statistical probability of paternity of ninety-seven percent or greater, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the putative father is the father of such child and, upon motion of any party or on its own motion, the court shall issue a temporary order of support." - M.G.L. c. 209C s 17 (thank you to Jonathan Eaton of Finn & Eaton for pointing us to this statute)Of course, whether established in court or voluntarily, legal parentage of a child is only step 1. Once the court or two parents have recognized the legal rights and obligations of the father, the parents need to define how they will coparent and support the child. Click here for more information on those next steps.
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