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The rights of unmarried fathers explained

Having a child can be one of the great joys in your life. Children can make you grow as a person, enforce responsibility and give you a reason to be happy and successful. Sometimes, parents are in a difficult position, though, because they aren’t married. If you find yourself in a similar situation in Massachusetts, then you need to understand how to move forward and claim your paternal rights.

As an unmarried father, you have rights that are defined by the United States, but you need to claim them to legalize them. Initially, during pregnancy or your child’s birth, you could be identified as the “punative father,” which simply means that you are a man who claims to be the biological father of a child but that the relationship hasn’t yet been established by law.

In many states, a man can be presumed to be a father if the child was born during marriage or within 300 days of a marriage ending. That takes into account the length of pregnancy. He may also be presumed as the father if he acknowledges paternity in writing or consents to being on the child’s birth certificate. If a man is paying child support, it’s also assumed that he is the biological father of the child.

There are a few alternative ways to establish paternity in Massachusetts, too, and they may be easier depending on your situation. An acknowledgement of paternity can be used to legally recognize a father, for instance. Typically, this is signed by both the mother and father. What may be most interesting about paternity is that fathers may be able to revoke their paternity claims. Out of the United States, there are 13 states that allow fathers to revoke their paternity at any point before or after the child’s birth.

Source: Child Welfare.Gov, “The Rights of Unmarried Fathers,” accessed June 11, 2015

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