Where do I file a Complaint to Establish Paternity?
File in the Probate and Family Court that covers the city where the child and one of the parents lives. If neither parents lives in the same county as the child, file in the county where the child lives. But if the parents have been parties to a prior unmarried parents case and the case has not been dismissed, then the case can be filed where the earlier case was filed. Find the Probate and Family Court in the right county.
What are the fees and costs?
When you file a Complaint for Paternity, you pay:
- a filing fee - $115
- a summons fee - $5, and
- a fee to the deputy sheriff or constable to serve the court papers to the other party. The sheriff or constable's cost depends on the distance the sheriff or constable has to travel or how many times they have to return to a location to complete service.
- fee for genetic marker test.
If you cannot afford these fees and costs you can ask the state to pay them using an Affidavit of Indigency form.
What court papers do I need?
Tell the clerk that you want to file a Complaint to Establish Paternity. The clerk will give you the forms you need. The forms are free. If you need a court order right away, tell the clerk that you also want to file a Motion for Temporary Orders. People usually ask for temporary orders for things that can’t wait, like custody and child support.
Ask the clerk for the following forms to fill out:
- A Complaint to Establish Paternity form.
- Affidavit Disclosing Care and Custody Proceedings. Tells the court whether or not there are other court cases about your child. See Affidavit of Care and Custody
- Financial Statement, The form has two purposes: (1) explain your financial situation to the court and (2) each party in the case to explain their financial situation to the other party. See How to Fill Out a Financial Statement;
- Affidavit of Indigency. Fill out this form if you are low income and cannot pay the cost of filing the case, serving the papers, and undergoing genetic marker testing. The form asks the state to pay the costs. Write that you need the state to pay the filing fees and the costs of serving the papers and undergoing genetic marker testing.
- A motion form for Temporary Orders if you need them.
Bring a copy of the child's birth certificate to court when you file.
You can get blank copies of these forms for free in the clerk's office of any Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts. You can also get blank forms on the Probate and Family Court’s website.
You may also need to file
- Motion for Genetic Marker Testing. Here are blank forms for filing out a motion, affidavit, and proposed order.
Some courts have people who can help you fill out the forms. Ask the clerk at the courthouse if your court has anyone to help you.
- Fill out the forms and give them to the clerk. The clerk will stamp each form with the date. You have "filed your case."
- Ask for two copies of everything. One copy is for you. The other copy is to "serve." The clerk may say that you need to pay for the copies or make the copies yourself. There will be a way to do this at the courthouse.