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Establishing Paternity - Filing a case

Produced by Jeff Wolf, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Created November, 2011

Where do I file a Complaint to Establish Paternity?

A Complaint to Establish Paternity is filed in the Probate and Family Court covering the county where the child and one of the parents lives.  If neither of the parents lives in the same county as the child, then the complaint is filed 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 wherer 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?

There is a $115.00 filing fee.  Also, you need a Summons. The Summons costs $5.00.  It costs about $30 to have the deputy sheriff or constable serve the papers.  It may cost more if the deputy sheriff or constable has to go very far to serve the papers.  There are costs for the genetic marker tests.  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:

You will need to 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. After the clerk stamps the forms with the date, 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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