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How do I exercise my parenting rights in Massachusetts, if the custodial parent is denying me access to my child?

West Springfield, MA |

I was 15 when my daughter was born and her mom was 18. After 2 and a half years we lost contact. I just recently found them and made contact and the mother keeps trying to make meeting my daughter as hard as possible. So I filed a complaint for Support Custody Visitation only for visitation. I understand I'm going to be paying child support, but the mother wants back child support even though there is a document signed by her to get the support dropped. The mother has legal council, I do not, so I would like to know what my rights are to represent myself. Thank you for your time.

Today I went to court and the copy of the order of cancellation of support was all of a sudden missing. They showed me the order when i was in court last month and now they have no record of it. The lawyer and the child's mother were winking and laughing after mediation. The mediation went no where, and then we went in front of the judge and her legal council spoke when she wanted to and i was left floundering trying to speak my peace but the lawyer kept moving it along. Also the said lawyer called me and wanted me to drop my case for visitation and said that if not then she was going to keep stalling and pushing this back. I'm looking into pro bono lawyers but keeping my fingers crossed for a little luck in that department.

Attorney Answers 5

  1. Best answer

    Representing yourself in this type of situation is not a good idea. Assuming paternity has been established, the Court will look to the conduct of the parties to determine a proper schedule between you and the child. Usually all of the events of the past come up during this process. The age of the child is of paramount importance to the Court to help determine the child's ability to establish a new relationship with a parent. If there is a negative history sometimes the Court will look to supervised visitation or even an investigation. If there is no negative history than the Court will look to establish the relationship through scheduling time based upon the age of the child. Usually it is a gradual schedule building more time as the relationship builds. Talk to a qualified, experienced attorney regarding these matters.

    Lloyd Godson

  2. In order to assert your parental rights, you will need to file a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity if your name is not on the birth certificate with a petition for custody or visitation. Because the mother has an attorney, it may be a good idea for you to consult a family law attorney before any hearings. As for the back support agreement, it is hard to say what effect, if any, it has in court and it is a bit unclear what you mean by she dropped the support. The court will determine child support based on the child support guidelines and custody or visitation, absent agreement otherwise, will be determined by the court based on what is in the best interests of the child. Again, I strongly recommend consulting an attorney and best of luck.

    Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. (It lets us know how we are doing.) Attorney Kremer is licensed to practice in Massachusetts. Please visit her Avvo profile for contact information. In accordance with Avvo guidelines, the following disclaimer applies to all responses given in this forum: The above is NOT legal advice, and is NOT intended to be legal advice. No Attorney-Client relationship is created through the above answer.

  3. If you have a court order file complaint for contempt ASAP

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  4. I essentially agree with Attorney Godson and would add that, in determining what is in the "best interests of the child" (the standard that the Court will apply), the Courts invariably order some form of visitation absent someone in your position having committed the most heinous crime against the other parent. In a non-marital case such as yours, the Court can order "back support" retroactively to the date of birth of your child. Because of the necessity of utilizing the Child Support Guidelines, that would require a determination of your and the mother's incomes since the date of birth - and that can be difficult to do. That difficulty plus the mother's agreement could well prevent an order for retroactive support. But keep in mind, the Courts sometimes will order retroactive support for a shorter period of time. The situation where retroactive support is most likely, though, is when the custodial parent has received public assistance for which the Department of Revenue (DOR) would seek reimbursement on behalf of the Department of Transitional Assistance. DOR may only be interested in the period of time that the public assistance was provided. I hope this helps.

  5. To answer your question, you have the right to represent yourself in court. It is not a good idea, and an attorney can give you your best possible chance at a good outcome.

    Christopher Vaughn-Martel is a Massachusetts lawyer with the firm of Vaughn-Martel Law in Boston, Massachusetts. All answers are based on generalized Massachusetts law and the limited facts presented by the questioner. All answers are provided to the general public for educational purposes only and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question. If you would like an attorney with Vaughn-Martel Law to review your specific situation and provide you with legal options or information specific to you, you may schedule a telephone or office by calling 617-357-4898 or visiting us at Our office charges $100.00 for a consultation, and applies your consultation fee to your first bill if the Firm is hired to perform further work.