Myth-busting: What Missouri men should know about paternity laws

Courts in different states are getting better about making child support and child custody laws more uniform, but there are still differences from state to state. Any parent in Missouri looking to establish child custody rights or establish or modify a support order should meet with a Missouri attorney to explore the available options. Every case is different, and that means bringing your case to court should involve an in-depth look at your particular situation.

But generally in Missouri, unwed fathers who want to do right by their children and be a part of their lives should be aware of some basic aspects of family law in our state. Let’s consider some of the basics.

It’s a common misconception that just because a father’s name is on the birth certificate, he has parental rights to his child. But the reality is that unwed fathers have to assert their parental rights in court, and sometimes this can require DNA testing. Without a court order, many fathers are denied visitation with their children, even if the fathers pay child support.

In fact, some fathers never even spend time with their children, but they do make monthly child support payments. The state can also order a father to pay, even if a court hasn’t confirmed his paternity. In cases in which a man doesn’t believe he is the father of a child, a court may still order that he pay child support if the mother claims the man is the father.

In these cases, a paternity test may also be necessary to prove that the man is not biologically linked to the child.

Fathers who want to assert their parental rights or make any kind of change to a court order should know that preparation is the key when going to court. It is also important to know how to conduct oneself before a judge to achieve the best outcome.

If you would like to learn more about paternity issues in Missouri, please visit our paternity page. Our firm represents men in family law cases throughout Missouri.

Source: ABC Action News, “Five important things that unwed fathers need to know,” Yvette Harrell, Oct. 8, 2013

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