Unmarried parents have the same legal rights and responsibilities concerning their children as married parents. Many times both parents agree upon who the father of the child is. However, paternity action may still be necessary to secure child custody, child support, or visitation rights. The Lecour Family Law can help when paternity issues arise.
You and your child’s parent might have recently gone through a change in the relationship. Or you may have a different reason for pursuing legal arrangements for custody, visitation, and support. No matter the situation, we am here to help. When you choose Lecour Family Law as your paternity and family law attorney, you can be confident that you will reach an agreeable solution for your case.
What Is Paternity?
Paternity means fatherhood. A child whose parents are not married has no legal father unless steps are taken to establish paternity. Establishing paternity is the legal process of making a man the legal father of his child. A paternity action may be necessary if the child's father will not voluntarily establish paternity or the mother will not recognize the father. If deemed necessary, the court will order a DNA test to determine the identity of the child’s biological father. However, most paternity actions tend to be motivated by a parent who wants to establish custody rights or receive child support.
Establishing Paternity in Missouri
In Missouri, a man is assumed to be the father if the couple is married when the baby is born. There are several ways to establish paternity for unmarried couples in Missouri. We understand the sensitivity of these cases and the complications that can arise and will approach your situation with the care and consideration it requires.
Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity
If both parents agree on paternity, they can sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity at the hospital after the birth. This creates legal paternity, and the father's name will appear on the child's birth certificate. You can also submit this form through the state's Bureau of Vital Records any time after the birth until the child turns 18.
Court-Ordered Legal Paternity
Either parent can seek a court determination of paternity through the state Family Support Division. To start this process, complete Missouri's Application for Child Support Services. You can ask the agency to create a court order establishing paternity, locate the other parent, or order a DNA test when you are unsure about paternity. If the test shows that the man has a 98% chance of being the father, the court names him the legal father. However, both parents must then complete the affidavit acknowledging paternity.
Benefits of Establishing Paternity in Missouri
Establishing paternity is necessary to allow unmarried parents to gain legal rights to child custody, support, and visitation. If you are expecting (or already have) a baby and have not married the child's other parent, you must establish legal paternity in Missouri. Once paternity is legally established, the father's name will be placed on the child's birth certificate. This grants the child several important rights, including
- The child may then be enrolled in the father's health insurance plan.
- The child will be eligible for Social Security or Veterans benefits should the father die or become disabled.
- If necessary, both parents can go to court to pursue support, visitation, and custody issues on behalf of the child.
Does Paternity Guarantee Custody and Visitation Rights?
It's important to understand that establishing paternity does not automatically entitle a father to custody or visitation rights. Parents may work together on how to decide custody and visitation schedules. However, if the parents can't agree, the court will determine custody and visitation based on the child's best interests. Courts presume that the best thing for a child is to have a meaningful, ongoing relationship with both parents. When that is not practical or is in dispute, they consider factors such as the child's health and safety, emotional needs, and the parent's co-parenting skills.
Finding Common Ground in Paternity Cases
In most paternity cases, the father's identity is not the most critical issue. If deemed necessary, the court will order a DNA test to determine the identity of the child's biological father. However, paternity actions tend to be motivated by a parent who wants to establish custody rights or receive child support.
In paternity cases, parents may have little in common apart from the child they allegedly share. Such clients tend to have had a shorter romantic relationship and may not even know the other parent's family. Determining the proper visitation and custody solution requires serious consideration. In such a situation, you need an experienced family law attorney to find the best solution for parenting your child.
Contact Lecour Family Law Today
If you are searching for a paternity attorney in the St. Charles area, contact the Lecour Family Law at (636) 685-0440. We offer compassionate and aggressive representation for family law issues, including divorce, child support, custody, paternity, and alimony.