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The process and benefits related to establishing paternity

When a woman gives birth to a child out of wedlock, that child does not have a legal father, even if the biological father was present at the hospital for the birth. In Missouri, however, biological fathers have the right to establish their legitimacy as legal fathers, and there are several ways they can do this.

One way is for the parents to fill out an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity, which hospitals may provide to unmarried couples who are having a baby. The man is recognized as the legal father of the child, and his name is put on the birth certificate, after the affidavit is completed. Parents who miss this opportunity may still complete the affidavit by contacting the Family Support Division.

If a mother has a child and is not certain about the identity of the biological father, a paternity test may be conducted. Potential candidates for the child's biological father may also apply for a paternity test. The Family Support Division provides the test, which reportedly has a probability rate of 98 percent. In Missouri, when there is a positive DNA match between a man and child, the man is presumed the legal father.

Establishing paternity allows fathers to seek custody of their children or visitation rights. It also allows children to be enrolled on their fathers' insurance policies. Furthermore, by establishing paternity, children may be eligible for veteran's benefits or Social Security benefits if their legal fathers were to become disabled or pass away.

Some parents, however, do not want to determine paternity. When this happens, the parent who wants to establish paternity may seek the counsel of a family law attorney. The lawyer may help the parent navigate the system in order to establish legitimacy and represent that parent should any legal disputes arise.

Source: Missouri department of social services, "How is paternity established?", October 07, 2014

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