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What are the benefits of establishing paternity?

Missouri parents may be interested in some of the benefits of establishing paternity. Being legally recognized as a father allows a man to seek custody or visitation, among other things, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services.

Paternity, essentially, means that someone is a child's father. A child who is born out of wedlock does not have a legal father, so paternity must be established through genetic testing or a written acknowledgment of fatherhood. Once paternity is established, however, the father has certain rights with regard to the child. The child's last name may be legally changed to the father's name, but a court order may be required to change the birth certificate. Establishing paternity may also allow a father to gain custody or visitation rights; this can either be achieved through a settlement agreement with the child's mother or by a court order.

Another option, if paternity cannot be established, is to record one's name on the Putative Father Registry. This is a repository of the names and addresses of men who are or claim to be fathers of children born to unwed parents. This puts forth an official claim of paternity in cases where the mother cannot be found or when the mother does not wish to establish the man's paternity. Registration on the PFR also allows fathers to be notified and have a say in whether or not their child is adopted by another family.

Because every person's factual situation is different, this information should not be taken as legal advice. An attorney with experience in the area of fathers' rights may be able to assess a person's situation and determine which course of action would be best, whether it includes registering on the PFR or attempting to establish paternity through the legal system.

Source: Missouri Department of Social Services, "Does Your Child Have A Legal Father? Paternity information for moms and dads", August 12, 2014

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