Some Missouri fathers have a very easy time asserting their rights. They have married the mother of their children and therefore have a very clear record of their established paternal relationship with their children. If they separate or divorce, they can very easily ask the courts for support in maintaining their parental rights.
However, quite a few fathers in Missouri do not have a legal relationship with the mother of their children. Whether they cohabitate with one another or not, unmarried parents have a different legal status than those who have children after marriage.
Unmarried fathers theoretically have the same rights as any other parent in Missouri, but they may need to take a few extra steps if they want to make use of those rights. Unmarried fathers have to formally establish themselves as a child’s parent by proving paternity to the state of Missouri. What does that process typically require?
The cooperation of the mother
The fastest and most common way for unmarried fathers to add their names to the birth certificates of their children is through cooperation with the mother of the child. Many families fill out paperwork right at the hospital after the birth of a child affirming the unmarried father’s relationship to the child and asking the state to add their name to the birth certificate. Even those who discover their parental relationship later can add their names to the birth certificate through an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity at any time until the child turns 18.
The state’s support
Not every unmarried mother willingly acknowledges the father of her child. Sometimes, married fathers need to go to family court. A family law judge has the authority to order testing to validate a father’s biological relationship to his children. If genetic testing does affirm someone’s paternal relationship, they can then have their name added to the birth certificate and ask the judge to divide parenting time and other parental rights.
Fathers who make the effort to legally prove their role in a child’s life can protect their right to have a say in their children’s lives and regular interaction with them. Establishing paternity is a key step for fathers who care about the relationship they have with their children. Seeking legal guidance is usually the best first step for those who want to formalize paternity, especially under contentious circumstances.