2020 Massachusetts General Laws
Part II - Real and Personal Property and Domestic Relations
Title III - Domestic Relations
Chapter 209c - Children Born Out of Wedlock
Section 11 - Acknowledgment of Parentage; Approval; Parental Agreements Regarding Custody, Support and Visitation
Section 11. (a) A written voluntary acknowledgment of parentage executed jointly by the putative father, whether a minor or not, and the mother of the child, whether a minor or not, and filed with the registrar of vital records and statistics or with the court shall be recognized as a sufficient basis for seeking an order of support, visitation or custody with respect to the child without further proceedings to establish paternity, and no judicial proceeding shall be required or permitted to ratify an acknowledgment that has not been challenged pursuant to this section. A report, prepared on an electronic system of birth registration approved by the commissioner of public health and indicating that an acknowledgment pursuant to this chapter has been executed in accordance with section 3C of chapter 46 and filed with the registrar of vital records and statistics, shall be presumed to be a sufficient basis for seeking an order of support, visitation or custody without further proceedings to establish paternity. The voluntary acknowledgment shall be attested to before a notary public and shall have the legal effect as provided in this section. Unless either signatory rescinds the acknowledgment within 60 days of the date of signing as provided in this section, the acknowledgment shall establish paternity as of the date it has been signed by such putative father and mother and shall have the same force and effect as a judgment of paternity, subject to challenge within one year only on the basis of fraud, duress or material mistake of fact; provided, however, that if, prior to the expiration of the 60–day period, the signatory is a party to an administrative or judicial proceeding related to the child, including a proceeding to establish child support, visitation or custody, and fails to rescind the acknowledgment at the time of such proceeding, the acknowledgment shall thereafter have the same force and effect as a judgment, subject to challenge only as provided in this section. The person seeking to rescind the acknowledgment shall, within 60 days of signing the acknowledgment, file a petition in the probate and family court in the county in which the child and one of the parents resides seeking to rescind the acknowledgment, with notice to the other parent. If neither of the parents lives in the same county as the child, then such complaint shall be filed in the county where the child lives. If the child whose paternity is challenged is a recipient of public assistance and the department of transitional assistance, the department of children and families, the division of medical assistance or any other public assistance program has not been made a party, or if the child is receiving child support enforcement services from the IV–D agency pursuant to chapter 119A, the court shall notify the IV–D agency. The person seeking to rescind the acknowledgment shall bear the burden of proof in such proceeding. The responsibilities of a signatory arising from the acknowledgment shall not be suspended during the pendency of such challenge unless the court so orders for good cause shown. If either party rescinds the acknowledgment in a timely fashion, the court shall order genetic marker testing and proceed to adjudicate paternity or nonpaternity in accordance with this chapter; provided, however, that the rescinded acknowledgment shall constitute the proper showing required for an order to submit to such testing; and provided further, that the rescinded acknowledgment shall be admissible as evidence of the putative father's paternity and shall serve as sufficient basis for admitting the report of the results of genetic marker tests. Upon adjudication of nonpaternity, the court shall instruct the registrar of vital records and statistics as provided in section 13 of chapter 46 to amend the birth record of the child in accordance with the order of the court.
(b) If a mother and father execute a voluntary acknowledgment of parentage as provided in (a), they may also make agreements regarding custody, support and visitation. Such agreements may be filed with any court with jurisdiction pursuant to this chapter; provided, that any such agreement which includes issues of custody or visitation must be filed with a division of the probate and family court department in the judicial district or county in which the child and one of the parents lives. Such agreements, if filed with and approved by the court shall have the same force and effect as a judgment of the court; provided, however, that the court shall have the same power to investigate the facts regarding custody, support and visitation prior to entering an order relative to those issues as it would have if no agreement had been filed; and provided further, that an agreement regarding custody and visitation shall be approved only if the court finds it to be in the best interests of the child.
(c) Voluntary acknowledgments and agreements made pursuant to this chapter shall be acknowledged in the presence of a notary public and shall include the residence addresses and social security numbers of each of the parents, the residence address of the child and, if available, the social security number of the child.
(d) A voluntary acknowledgment of parentage taken outside of the commonwealth shall be valid for the purposes of this section if it was taken in accordance with the laws of the state or the country where it was executed.