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Establishing Paternity - Filing a case

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed July 2023

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.

Go to the clerk's office in the Probate and Family Court or download the form from the Probate and Family Court Department forms page.

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:

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


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.

  1. Fill out the forms and give them to the clerk. The clerk will stamp each form with the date. You have "filed your case."
  2. 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.

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