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How to Establish Paternity in the State of Missouri 

Howard L.Lotven, P.C. June 12, 2024

For new parents and potential fathers in Missouri, establishing paternity not only secures the child's rights but also brings legal clarity and responsibility for both parents. In Missouri, establishing paternity can affect a child's inheritance, access to medical history, and financial support.  

At Howard L. Lotven, P.C., I offer comprehensive family law services, including services for paternity cases. With decades of experience in Kansas City, Independence, Rock Port, and Lexington, I bring a unique perspective to each case. My background as a defense attorney, prosecutor, and judge allows me to approach cases with honesty, compassion, and a deep understanding of the legal system. 

Let's explore what paternity means, why it's important, and how to establish it in the state of Missouri. 

What Is Paternity & Why Is It Important to Establish?

Paternity refers to the legal recognition of a man as the father of a child. In Missouri, establishing paternity is required for the child to have a legal father. This recognition comes with various rights and responsibilities, such as custody, visitation, and child support. 

If a father fails to establish paternity in Missouri, he forfeits his legal rights and responsibilities towards the child. This includes the right to seek custody or visitation and the obligation to provide child support. Without established paternity, the father's name will not be on the birth certificate, and he cannot make legal decisions for the child. 

The benefits of establishing paternity are multi-faceted and impact the entire family. Some examples of these benefits include:  

Benefits for the Child 

  • Inheritance rights: A child gains the right to inherit from the father. 

  • Access to medical history: Knowing the father's medical history can be vital for the child's health. 

  • Financial support: The legal father is obligated to contribute financially to support the child's livelihood and well-being. 

Benefits for the Father 

  • Legal rights: Establishing paternity grants the father legal rights to custody and visitation. 

  • Relationship building: It provides an opportunity to build and maintain a meaningful relationship with the child. 

Benefits for the Mother 

  • Shared responsibility: The mother can share the financial and emotional responsibilities of raising the child. 

  • Legal clarity: It brings legal clarity and support from the father. 

Methods for Establishing Paternity in Missouri

There are multiple ways that paternity can be established in Missouri. The primary ways to do this include the following:  

  • Voluntary acknowledgment: The simplest way to establish paternity is through voluntary acknowledgment. Both parents sign an "Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity," which is then filed with the Bureau of Vital Records. This method is straightforward and does not require a court order. 

  • Court-ordered paternity test: If there are disputes or doubts about paternity, either parent can request a court-ordered paternity test. The court will mandate a DNA test, and the results will determine legal paternity. This method ensures accuracy but involves legal proceedings. 

  • Presumption of paternity: In some cases, paternity is presumed without requiring further actions. For instance, if a child is born during a marriage or within 300 days after the marriage ends, the husband is presumed to be the father. This presumption can be contested in court if necessary. 

Whether you need assistance with voluntary acknowledgment, navigating court-ordered paternity tests, or addressing presumption issues, I am here to help. My goal is to help all parties understand their rights and responsibilities and to provide robust legal representation throughout the process. 

The Process for Establishing Your Legal Status as a Parent  

Legal status as a parent can be established through a court order. The process involves filing a paternity action in family court, where evidence such as genetic testing results or acknowledgment of paternity forms is presented. If paternity is confirmed, the court issues an order that establishes the father as the legal parent. 

When establishing paternity, the court considers various factors to decide the rights and responsibilities of the parents. This includes custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and child support obligations. However, the final decision is always focused on the child's best interest. 

How the Court Determines Child Support after Paternity is Established 

Once paternity is established, the court uses established state-wide guidelines to determine child support. The factors used to determine the child support amount include the income of both parents, the needs of the child, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. The ultimate goal is to meet the child's financial and health-related needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Establishing Paternity

Is genetic testing required to establish paternity, and how is it done? 

Genetic testing is often required to establish paternity, especially if there's a dispute. This test involves collecting DNA samples from the mother, child, and alleged father typically through a cheek swab. The samples are then analyzed to determine the probability of paternity. 

How is a parenting plan arranged? 

In Missouri, once paternity is established, a parenting plan is generally required. This plan outlines custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and how decisions about the child's welfare will be made. Both parents can agree on a plan and submit it to the court for approval. If they cannot agree, the court will devise one based on the child's best interests. 

Is hiring a lawyer necessary when dealing with paternity issues in Missouri? 

While it's not mandatory to hire a lawyer for paternity cases in Missouri, it is highly advisable. Family law can be complex, and having an experienced family law attorney by your side can help protect your rights throughout the process.  

Contact Attorney Howard Lotven for Your Paternity Case

Establishing paternity is a significant step that brings numerous benefits to the child, father, and mother. From securing inheritance rights to providing financial support, legal recognition of paternity ensures that the child's needs are met.  

If you’re in Kansas City, Independence, Rock Port, or Lexington and need assistance with paternity issues, contact Howard L. Lotven, P.C. to schedule a free 30-minute consultation. Let's work together to protect your rights and the well-being of your child.