Paternity Actions

Parties whose children are born out of wedlock face a special set of circumstances in the legal arena. Under Massachusetts law all children are entitled to economic support by their parents, however, in the case of children born out of wedlock the obligation of support does not begin until the paternity of the child is established, either in court or upon sworn affidavit of both parties. In the absence of a court order which says otherwise the mother has sole custody of the child. A Complaint for Support, Visitation and Custody can be filed to establish paternity as well as the other issues related to the children.

 

Child Support

  • All parents have the obligation to financially support their children, regardless of whether or not that parent has any contact with the child.
  • In determining the amount of child support the Court uses the Child Support guidelines(can this link to the guidelines). Courts strictly adhere to these guidelines unless the court finds good reason to deviate.
  • Support obligations generally terminate when the child reaches the age of 18, but certain circumstances can cause the obligation to run longer.

Child Custody

  • Legal Custody- This type of custody gives parents the right to make decisions about the child’s welfare. It includes decisions relating to education, moral, emotional, medical and religious development. There is a presumption in Massachusetts that parents should share legal custody of children. However, when the parents’ are not capable of communicating effectively the court may award legal custody to only one of the parents.
  • Physical Custody – This type of custody can be awarded to one parent or to the parties jointly depending on the circumstances. Even if one parent is awarded sole physical custody it is typically subject to scheduled parenting time with the non-custodial parent.

 

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