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In Missouri, when a child is born to a married couple, it is generally assumed that the mother’s husband is the father of the newborn. That is not the case when an unmarried woman gives birth, however. In the case of a birth out of wedlock, fatherhood is not presumed. Unmarried fathers in Missouri are therefore not afforded the same parental rights as married fathers. Establishing paternity gives unwed fathers their parental rights and also establishes their legal obligation to support their children. Read on for a closer look at the process of establishing paternity in Missouri, presented by family law attorney Kenneth L. Jamison.

What Does It Mean To Establish Paternity?

The simplest answer to the question of what paternity means is ‘fatherhood’. Establishing paternity means establishing fatherhood. When a married couple has a child, it is presumed that the child’s father is the mother’s husband. His name appears on the birth certificate. If the couple divorces after the child’s birth, both parents will be legally obligated to support the child financially and share the responsibilities of raising the child. In the divorce proceedings, each parent’s amount of financial support, decision-making rights, and visitation will be determined and ordered by the Court in the Parenting Plan. However, when unmarried parents have a child, fatherhood is not automatically presumed. Paternity must be established for the father to have parental rights, such as visitation, custody, and share in decision-making. 

Why Is Paternity In Missouri Important?

As mentioned previously, establishing paternity is necessary for an unmarried father to have parental rights. Without a legal acknowledgment of fatherhood, an unmarried father would not have legal right to make decisions involving his child’s upbringing. Additionally, he would not be allowed custody or visitation with his child, without the consent of the child’s mother. In addition to the issue of parental rights, there are other important reasons for establishing paternity in Missouri. The most common reasons include the following:

Well-being: Knowing both parents is important for the development of a child’s sense of identity. It is beneficial to the child when both parents share the parenting responsibilities. Missouri family courts have already established that it is in the child’s best interest to have a frequent, meaningful and ongoing relationship with both parents.

Benefits:  Having established paternity is necessary for children to be eligible to receive their father’s benefits. Examples of such benefits include health insurance, Veterans and Social Security benefits. 

Child Support:  Missouri, like most states, requires that both parents provide financial support for their children. An unmarried father without established paternity may be ordered by the Missouri Division of Family Support to pay child support but would have no right to custody or visitation. Alternatively, an unmarried mother who needs financial help to support her child can file for child support in court. Paternity would have to be established before a court would order an unmarried father to pay child support.  

How To Establish Paternity In Missouri

An unwed father can establish paternity by consent, by signing an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity at the time of birth. However, the mother may refuse to sign a voluntary paternity acknowledgment or there may be a disagreement about paternity. In these situations, a court action can be filed to establish paternity. Judges will hear evidence and determine whether a man is a child’s biological father. There is often an order for DNA testing to help them reach their determinations. 

Consult With A Family Law Attorney

It can be complicated for some unwed Missouri fathers to legally establish the relationship between themselves and their children. This is especially true when mothers will not agree to establish paternity. Likewise, unwed mothers seeking financial support for their children might find that establishing legal paternity in court can be quite a complex process. As such, single Missouri parents who wish to establish paternity may benefit from working with an experienced family law attorney, who can guide them through the process and ensure their rights are upheld.

If you or someone you know is considering filing a paternity action in Missouri family court, contact The Law Firm of Kenneth L. Jamison, located in Liberty, Missouri. We represent individuals in and around the Kansas City Metro area. Our trusted and experienced attorneys will listen and discuss your individual situation, to help you determine the best course of action. Call us for a free consultation at  (816) 200-7436 or you can contact us by visiting our website.  

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