Children of unmarried parents in Massachusetts are afforded all the same rights of children whose parents are married. However, there are some key differences in how the laws apply to unmarried parents. At Skylark it is our goal to help simplify this process.
To learn how we can help read below or if you would like more information please do not hesitate to call us at 508.655.5980 or e-mail us.
Unmarried mothers in Massachusetts are presumed to be the legal and physical custodian of a child without going to court. However, without an agreement or court order there is no automatic parenting plan or child support.
Unmarried fathers in Massachusetts are not provided with any legal custody rights without going to court. However, a child support obligation can begin to accrue upon the birth of the child even if the father is unaware of their existence or not involved in the child’s life.
Unmarried parents who are separated can still plan for the baby’s arrival together. If they need help working out the details of how to plan for the baby they might want to consider attending counseling or mediation together.
The Birth Certificate is completed with information provided by the mother of the baby. If she is unmarried, then she can request the father’s name be included. In order to include the father’s name he must sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity and then his name will appear on the birth certificate.
Signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement has significant legal ramifications. Even if a father is not the biological father, signing the Voluntary Acknowledgement could make him the legal father, with both the rights and obligations of being the father.
Children of unmarried parents are by default in the custody of their mother. Parents can agree to share custody or arrange for visitation through collaborative negotiation or mediation when appropriate. If they can’t agree then the court can create a parenting plan with the filing of a Complaint for Custody and Parenting Time.
Child Support is typically paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the support of the child. To obtain a court order for child support you can request that DOR file a case on your behalf, or you can file a Complaint to establish support in the court yourself (or with the assistance of an attorney).
Child Support is calculated using a formula called the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. The formula is presumptive, and Judges can only vary from the formula in specific circumstances. You should consult an attorney to discuss what facts in your case might warrant a variation from the formula.
To view the formula and calculate your Child Support view our Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Calculator.