Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Child custody: Securing paternal rights can be complicated

There are suggestions by groups in Massachusetts, and across the country, that family laws related to paternity issues need changing. They believe the current system is rigged against unmarried fathers seeking child custody, resulting in men having to pay child support for children that are not theirs. It is the opinion of these groups that not only are biological fathers sometimes obstructed from building relationships with their children, but also the children are denied the benefits of relationships with their fathers.

It is reported that, of all fathers who pay child support nationwide, only 70 percent are the biological fathers of the children whom they support. Nevertheless, even with DNA evidence to prove that a man is not the biological father of a child, under certain circumstances it can be almost impossible to stop court-ordered child support payments. Also, if a man's name is entered on the birth certificate as the child's father, and he learns at a later stage that he is not the father, the statute of limitations may prevent him from disputing paternity.

Until paternity is formally established, unmarried fathers have no legal rights to their children while unwed mothers have full custody -- physical and legal -- of the children. This creates problems for couples who choose not to marry. If such a relationship ends, and paternity was never legally established, the father will have no legal rights, but he will likely still have to pay child support.

These are but some of the difficulties unmarried fathers have to face, and it is believed that the relationships of millions of children and their fathers are jeopardized. Massachusetts fathers who want to establish paternity to pursue child custody, or those who want to dispute paternity to be relieved from child support obligations, may benefit from the services of experienced family law attorneys. This area of the law is complicated and best navigated by professionals who can assess the circumstances and suggest the best way forward.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Problems With Paternity: Fraud To Securing Parental Rights", Joseph E. Cordell, Feb. 18, 2016

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