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Protection for Unmarried Parents in Massachusetts

Unmarried parents receive similar rights and protections as married parents regarding child custody, visitation, and child support matters, although the specific procedures may vary slightly. Because every state is different, residents should be aware of the relevant information regarding protection for unmarried parents in Massachusetts.

Establishing Paternity

Paternity is already established for married couples; the husband is the legal father of any children born during the marriage and doesn't need to take any measures before he can assert custody, visitation, or child support rights and responsibilities. However, unmarried fathers must first establish paternity before they act to resolve these issues. Both parents may sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage that is registered in court or a person can request that a Massachusetts court order genetic testing to establish paternity.

Protection for Unmarried Parents in Massachusetts at a Glance

When conducting legal research, you want to make sure that you understand every detail in the relevant statutes. You can get help with this task by reading a version of the content that's written in basic terms, without legalese. The chart below provides a basic explanation of protection for unmarried parents in Massachusetts.


Massachusetts General Laws:

Custody and Parenting Time

Unmarried parents can obtain a parenting plan which is a legally binding agreement that outlines decisions about time spent with the child and decision-making authority.


  • One parent may have more time spent with the child (physical custody) or they can split time equally.
  • There's a presumption that the mother has decision-making authority (legal custody) for children born outside of a marriage. However, unmarried fathers aren't necessarily out of luck in this regard; parents can agree to joint legal custody or fathers can seek a custody order from the court.

Parenting Time/Visitation:

  • If they don't get physical custody of the child, unmarried parents (except in extreme cases) have the right to continue a relationship with their child through parenting time.
  • The parenting time is determined by agreement of the parents or by a court decision.

Child Support

Unmarried parents have a right to receive child support payments from the other parent to help take care of the child.

Typically, the custodial parent receives payments from the custodial parent. However, a child support order may still be issued for 50/50 custody. The amount of the obligation is determined by state guidelines.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Protection for Unmarried Parents in Massachusetts: Related Resources

Want More Info about Protection for Unmarried Parents in Massachusetts? Talk to a Lawyer

Although the protection for unmarried parents in Massachusetts is comparable to that of divorced parents, there are some unique needs that can require special attention. For instance, unmarried fathers that must establish paternity in order to be legally recognized as fathers. Get more information from a Massachusetts family lawyer who can provide insight to your situation.

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