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Melissa A. Featherston

How to establish paternity in Missouri

Under Missouri law, if two unmarried people have a child, the biological father is not automatically considered to be the child's legal father. In order for that to happen, paternity must be established. When a man becomes the legal father of his child, he is entitled to custody or visitation, and the child is entitled to financial support, health insurance and other benefits from the father. 

When the child is born, both parents may sign and submit an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. This is considered the easiest method of ensuring the biological father is legally recognized as the baby's father. Of course, this method requires both the man and the woman to agree that he is the father.

If there is some doubt as to whether a particular man is the biological father of a woman's child, a DNA test can be performed to make that determination. Either party may request that such a test be conducted. A paternity test showing that a man is, in fact, the biological father is not enough to establish legal fatherhood in regard to custody matters, however. In the absence of an affidavit, either party may petition the court for an order establishing that a man is the legal father of a child. Once this order is entered, issues such as child support and visitation can be addressed.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, a woman is not willing to go through this process amicably. In that case, there are certain steps you must take to establish paternity, including putting your name on Missouri's Putative Father Registry, obtaining a DNA test and obtaining a court order. In order to have the best opportunity at establishing that you are the legal father of a child, it may be beneficial to seek out the advice and assistance of someone familiar with the process.

Source: dss.mo.gov, "Does Your Child Have A Legal Father?", , Sept. 28, 2014

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