The establishment of paternity- the process whereby a man is determined to be a child’s biological and legal father- is extremely important for biological parents who were not married at the time of the child’s birth.

Missouri law presumes that a child born to a married man and woman is the child of that man and woman. The husband will be legally recognized as the child’s father. However, this same presumption is not afforded to unwed fathers.

Generally, at the hospital after a child’s birth, both parents acknowledge the paternity of the child by signing an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. This voluntary acknowledgment names the man as the child’s father, lists his name on the child’s birth certificate, and creates a presumption of paternity.

Paternity can also be established through paternity testing with the Family Support Division and by court order. If the DNA test results show a minimum of a 98% probability that the unwed father is the father of the child, then he will be presumed to be the father of the child.

Simply establishing a presumption of paternity by one of the methods above does not secure the father the legal rights of custody, parenting time, or child support. In order to do that, a presumed father or the mother must file a petition for determination of paternity and specifically request orders of child custody, a parenting plan, and child support orders.

Paternity actions can be complicated and emotional matters. To receive more information about a new or pending paternity action, please contact our firm to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney.

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