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How Does Child Custody and Visitation Work for Unmarried Parents in Massachusetts?


Nothing matters more to any parent than their child’s well-being. If you’re a parent, you know this. But what happens when you and your child’s other parent aren’t married? Does that mean you have less of a say in your child’s life? Are your rights as a parent diminished? For an unmarried parent in Massachusetts, navigating child custody and visitation can be overwhelming and emotional. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

The proven and capable family law attorneys at Davis Law Group, led by top child custody and visitation lawyer Jay Davis, are here to guide you through the legal process and empower you to make informed decisions that will shape your child’s future. With our legal team by your side, you can have peace of mind knowing that your case is being handled with the utmost care and attention. Contact us today to schedule a no-obligation, free consultation. Even if you’re not ready to hire a lawyer, we’re here to listen, answer your questions, and provide clarity to your situation.

Understanding Your Rights: A Guide to Child Custody and Visitation for Unmarried Parents in Massachusetts

Even if you are not married to your partner, in Massachusetts, you have the right to seek child custody and visitation arrangements that protect your child’s best interests. Based on this, navigating the legal system can be confusing and overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know to understand your rights and options:

Establishing Paternity

If you’re an unmarried father, the first step you need to take is to establish paternity. Unlike married couples, paternity is not assumed, and the father needs to take legal action to establish it. Without paternity being established, the father doesn’t have legal rights to custody, visitation, or child support.

In Massachusetts, paternity can be established through two methods. The first is a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form which is signed by both parents and filed with the appropriate court. By signing this form, the father acknowledges that he is the biological father of the child, and his name can be added to the child’s birth certificate.

The second method is genetic testing ordered by a Massachusetts court. This process involves collecting a sample from the father, mother, and child to determine paternity. Once paternity is established, the father can seek custody, visitation, and child support rights and responsibilities.

It’s important to note that establishing paternity can have significant legal and financial implications for both parents and the child involved. At Davis Law Group, our experienced Massachusetts family lawyers can help guide you through the process of establishing paternity and help you understand your rights and options. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn how you can establish your legal rights.

Custody and Parenting Time

When it comes to custody and parenting time, unmarried parents have the right to obtain a parenting plan that outlines the decisions regarding the time spent with their child and decision-making authority. This parenting plan can be awarded to one parent, split equally between both parents or the parties may decide on an alternative parenting plan.

The parenting time can be determined by mutual agreement of both parents or by a court decision. Unmarried parents can continue a relationship with their child through parenting time, even if they don’t have physical custody, except in extreme cases.

Child Support

Child support is an important aspect of child custody cases for unmarried parents. Even if a child is born out of wedlock, a parent’s obligation towards their child remains, and the child’s mother can enforce her legal right to child support payments from the biological father using a Complaint for Custody, Visitation and Support under G.L. c. 209C.

When it comes to determining child support, Massachusetts courts use a similar process for unmarried parents as they do for traditional divorces. The court assesses each parent’s income and the child’s needs to determine the amount of regular support payments to be made to the parent with primary custody.

With that said, there are some differences in child support laws for married and unmarried parents. For instance, in the case of married parents, the court can only order retroactive child support* from the date the Complaint for Divorce was served. In contrast, for unmarried parents, the court must order retroactive child support from the birth of the child, as stipulated in G.L. c. 209C, s. 10. The court considers the parent’s ability to pay and any support provided during the period in question.

The retroactive provision of the statute can make things a little complicated, especially when unwed parents did not live together. But if they cohabitated, retroactive child support is generally not ordered for any period.

Retroactive child support is the payment of past due support payments that were not paid during a previous period of time. In the case of unmarried parents, the court can order retroactive child support payments all the way back to the birth of the child, unlike married parents who can only be ordered to pay retroactive child support from the date the Complaint for Divorce was served.

Key Differences in Child Custody for Unmarried Parents in Massachusetts

When unmarried parents have child custody issues, they can file a Complaint for Custody, Visitation and Support under Massachusetts’ G.L. c. 209C laws. In cases of unmarried parents, judges must determine if shared physical or legal custody is best for the child by making specific findings. This can be difficult for parents who haven’t lived together or haven’t shared responsibility for their child before. To avoid being considered a lesser parent, be sure to provide evidence of your involvement with your child.

Let Us Help You Navigate Child Custody and Visitation Laws in Massachusetts

Navigating child custody issues as an unmarried parent can be daunting, but you don’t have to go through it alone. At Davis Law Group, leading divorce attorney Jay Davis and his team understand the complexities and emotions involved in these cases. We can provide you with the insight and guidance you need to make informed decisions that protect your child’s best interests.

Whether you’re the unmarried father or mother of the child, we have the knowledge and expertise to help you navigate the legal system and understand your rights and options. Our team can help you negotiate a parenting plan or child support agreement that is fair and meets your child’s needs. Give us a call at (617) 752-6216 or get in touch with us online to request a free consultation.

The post How Does Child Custody and Visitation Work for Unmarried Parents in Massachusetts? first appeared on Davis Law Group.
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