The Rights of Unmarried Parents - Massachusetts

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Definitions

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 209C, § 6

A person is presumed to be the other parent of a child if any of the following applies:

  • The person is or has been married to the birth parent and the child was born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage was terminated by death, annulment, or divorce.
  • Before the child's birth, the person married or attempted to marry the birth parent, although the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child was born during the attempted marriage or within 300 days after its termination.
  • After the child's birth, the person married or attempted to marry the birth parent, although the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the following apply:
    • The person agreed to support the child under a written voluntary promise.
    • The person engaged in any other conduct that can be construed as an acknowledgment of parentage.
  • While the child is under the age of majority, the person, jointly with the birth parent, received the child into their home and openly held out the child as their child.
  • The person acknowledged parentage in a parental responsibility claim, and the birth parent, having received actual notice thereof, has failed within a reasonable time to object to the claim.
  • With respect to a child born before April 13, 1994, with their consent and the consent of the child's birth parent, the person is named as the child's other parent on the child's birth certificate as provided in chapter 46, § 1.

Use of Parentage Registries

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Alternate Means to Establish Parentage

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 209C, §§ 2 and 11; Ch. 210, § 4A

Parentage may be established by filing an acknowledgment of parentage executed by both parents or pursuant to a court action to establish parentage with the court or the State Registrar of Vital Records and Statistics. Upon receipt of an acknowledgment of parentage or upon an adjudication of parentage, the court shall transmit a certified copy of the acknowledgment or order establishing parentage to the State registrar.

A written voluntary acknowledgment of parentage executed jointly by the putative other parent, whether a minor or not, and the birth parent of the child, whether a minor or not, and filed with the State registrar or with the court shall be recognized as a sufficient basis for seeking an order of support, visitation, or custody with respect to the child without further proceedings to establish parentage. No judicial proceeding shall be required or permitted to ratify an acknowledgment that has not been challenged.

A putative other parent also may establish the right to receive notice of the child's surrender for adoption by filing a declaration seeking to assert the responsibilities of parenthood, hereinafter called a parental responsibility claim. Such filing shall constitute an acknowledgment and admission of parentage.

Required Information

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 209C, §§ 2 and 11

An adjudication of parentage or acknowledgment of parentage shall include the following:

  • The name, residence, date of birth, place of birth, and Social Security number of each parent and the child
  • The sex of the child
  • Such additional information as the Commissioner of Public Health deems useful for statistical and research purposes

Voluntary acknowledgments of parentage shall be acknowledged in the presence of a notary public and shall include the following:

  • The residence addresses and Social Security numbers of each parent
  • The residence address of the child
  • If available, the Social Security number of the child

Revocation of Claim to Parentage

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 209C, § 11

Unless either signatory rescinds the voluntary acknowledgment of parentage within 60 days of the date of signing, the acknowledgment shall establish parentage as of the date it has been signed by such putative other parent and birth parent and shall have the same force and effect as a judgment of parentage, subject to challenge within 1 year based only on fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. The person seeking to rescind the acknowledgment shall bear the burden of proof in such proceeding. The responsibilities of a signatory arising from the acknowledgment shall not be suspended during the pendency of such challenge unless the court so orders for good cause shown.

Access to Information

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 209C, § 13; Ch. 210, § 4A

In an action to establish parentage, all complaints, pleadings, papers, documents, or reports shall be segregated and unavailable for inspection only if the judge of the court where such records are kept, for good cause shown, so orders or the person alleged to be the other parent is adjudicated not to be the genetic parent of the child.

Access may be granted to the following:

  • The child, the child's birth parent, or the person adjudicated to be the other parent
  • The Department of Transitional Assistance
  • The Department of Children and Families, the Division of Medical Assistance, or any other public assistance program
  • The IV-D agency when the child who is or was the subject of the complaint is a recipient of public assistance
  • The attorney for any of the preceding and the Department of Children and Families when the child is within the care and protection of the department, is the subject of a petition for care or protection, or is the subject of a petition to dispense with consent for adoption

The department shall send notice of the filing of a parental responsibility claim to the birth parent.