Parents of children born out of wedlock often have questions about their legal rights and obligations, including questions about custody, visitation and child support. It can be a stressful time for new parents while these issues remain unresolved. In many cases, parents feel relieved once they learn more about the process, and what their rights are. Whether you need information or legal representation, we are happy to help.
Take the first step today! If you need an attorney to represent you in a paternity case or to answer questions about your rights and obligations, contact our office now to schedule a free consultation.
Send an email now to Attorney Rhonda S. Boulé:
Or call: 617/969-0400,
We have 20 years of family law experience. Our primary goal is to secure for our clients favorable results, in the most cost-effective and least time-consuming manner, whether via settlements outside the courtroom, or judgments obtained after trial. We strive to educate our clients about the process and how the law will be applied to their own situations, and work collaboratively with clients to set expectations and identify goals that are tailored to each individual client’s needs and desires. In addition, we place a premium on our ability to provide experienced and knowledgeable, yet thoughtful and compassionate, guidance to our clients throughout the entire process. As do the Courts, we always keep in mind the best interests of the clients’ children, and strive to help lessen the effects upon them of their parents’ dispute.
Our clients hail from various towns and cities, including Boston, Newton and Waltham, as well as from towns West of Boston, the North Shore and the South Shore. With 20 years of legal experience handling cases in the Probate Courts in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Middlesex, Worcester, Bristol, and Plymouth counties, we provide our clients with practical legal advice, personalized guidance, and zealous representation of their interests and goals during this stressful time.
For more information about the law regarding children born to parents who are not married to each other, see below.
Legal Rights of Children Born out of Wedlock
Children born to parents who are not married to each other are entitled to the same rights and protections of the law as all other children. The law provides for such children either to be acknowledged by their parents voluntarily or, upon the filing of a complaint by a parent, to have the court enter an order as to their paternity. The law also entitles such children to court orders for their support, and regarding their custody or visitation rights.
How Paternity is Established
Paternity may be established by filing an acknowledgment of parentage signed by both parents (commonly, this will be the birth certificate), or pursuant to a complaint to establish paternity filed by a parent. Along with a complaint, a parent may also file actions to establish support obligations, or for custody or visitation.
Every person is responsible for the support of his child born out of wedlock from the child’s birth up to the age of eighteen, or, where the child is living in the home of a parent and principally dependent upon that parent for maintenance, to age twenty-one. A parent ordered to pay support is required to pay according to his financial ability and earning capacity pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines. In determining the amount of the child support obligation or in approving the agreement of the parties, the court is required to apply the child support guidelines. There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount resulting from application of the guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support to be ordered.
If the court finds that a parent is obligated to support a child, the court will enter an order requiring that parent to make weekly child support payments on behalf of the child. The court may make appropriate child support orders for any child who has reached age eighteen but who has not reached age twenty-one, and who is living in the home of a parent and is principally dependent upon that parent for maintenance. The court may make appropriate orders of child support for any child who has reached age twenty-one but who has not reached age twenty-three if the child is living in the home of a parent, and is principally dependent upon that parent for maintenance, and is attending college.
Retroactive Child Support
Upon the petition of a parent, the court may also order past support for the period from the birth of the child to the entry of the order, taking into consideration the parent’s ability to pay and any support provided by the parent during such period.
Non-Payment of Support
The parent from whom child support is sought will not be relieved of his obligation to pay based upon the fact that he no longer has custody or the right to custody of a minor child for whom support is sought, or that the custodial parent is interfering with his visitation rights.
Health Insurance Coverage for Children Born out of Wedlock
When the court enters a child support order or judgment, it will also determine whether the parent obligated to pay support has health insurance or other coverage available to him through an employer or organization, or has health insurance or other coverage available to him at reasonable cost that may be extended to cover his child. If the court determines that the parent obligated to pay support has health insurance or other coverage available to him, the court will include in the child support order or judgment a requirement that the parent obligated to pay support obtain coverage for the child.
Custody of Children Born out of Wedlock
Upon a judgment or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, the court may award custody to the mother or the father or to them jointly, as appropriate in the best interests of the child.
In awarding custody to one of the parents, the court is required, to the extent possible, to preserve the relationship between the child and the primary caretaker parent. The court must also consider where and with whom the child has lived within the six months prior to the filing of the case, and whether one or both of the parents has established a personal and parental relationship with the child or has exercised parental responsibility in the best interests of the child.
In awarding the parents joint custody of a child born out of wedlock, the court will do so only if the parents have entered into an agreement or the court finds that the parents have successfully exercised joint responsibility for the child prior to the filing of the case, and have the ability to communicate and plan with each other concerning the child’s best interests.
Initial Custody with Mother
Before a judgment of paternity enters or the parents sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, the mother has custody of a child born out of wedlock. If there is no order or judgment of a probate and family court relative to custody, the mother will continue to have custody of a child after a judgment of paternity or voluntary acknowledgment of parentage.
Ferraro & Boulé, Attorneys at Law: Experienced, Compassionate and Dedicated to Our Clients