How can fathers establish paternity to get custody rights?

Missouri fathers must establish paternity to obtain parenting rights like custody.

If you and your co-parent have married, the law presumes that the husband is the father of a child born during marriage. However, if you and your co-parent are not married, you must establish paternity for your child to have a legal father.

How do you establish paternity?

When an unmarried couple has a child, the parents may sign an affidavit to acknowledge and establish paternity. If you sign this affidavit at the hospital before the hospital files the child’s birth certificate, the birth certificate will reflect the father’s name. If you have a child while unmarried and you marry your co-parent at a later date, state law will recognize the man’s status as the legal father.

If you and your partner cannot agree on paternity, the state’s family support division or a court may order genetic testing. State law will presume fatherhood if genetic testing shows a 98% or greater probability that the man is the biological father.

Can you challenge a determination of paternity?

If you disagree with a finding of paternity, you may petition a court to set aside the determination. You must submit an affidavit and provide new evidence. This evidence may include genetic test results that predate the petition by 90 days.

What is a motion for family access order?

If you believe that another person is interfering, without good cause, with your custody rights under a paternity judgment, you may file a motion for family access order. The motion cannot seek to change an existing custody arrangement, but a court may require mediation or take other action to support an existing order. For example, a court may order counseling, assess a fine or demand that the non-compliant party post a bond.

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