Jacquelyn S. Gonz, Attorney At Law Llc

How establishing paternity helps single fathers

You know that you are your child’s father. You look into their eyes and see your eyes staring straight back at you. You see the same smile that you had as a kid. You see every little detail that ensures that your child is your blood.

But the court doesn’t see all those details. As a single father, you need to know what legal steps are necessary after your child is born, especially if you aren’t married to the mother. One of the most critical steps is establishing paternity.

What does paternity mean in Missouri courts?

Paternity is the establishment of the biological parents for a specific child. For married couples, the husband is presumed to be the child’s father at birth. However, if you aren’t married to the mother of your child, you have to establish paternity in court.

What is the benefit of the legal status?

There are benefits to seeking paternity for a child as a single father. For example, you can:

  • Seek custody for your child
  • Receive child support if you take on the primary parenting role
  • Petition to relocate out of the area with the child
  • Play an active role in the parenting plan

While you do not need a legal status to be an engaged father, you might want paternity established for any future purposes that involve court proceedings.

Do I have to take DNA or genetic tests?

If you want to prove the paternity of your child, you have to establish clear evidence that you are related to the child. Most fathers show biologically-relation through birth certificates or genetic testing.

However, the courts do not force you to take a genetic test, even if the mother asks for it. You decide to take the test. The Missouri Department of Social Services Family Support Division offers free genetic testing if a father wants to establish paternity.

What happens after I establish paternity?

After establishing paternity, most fathers have to pay child support, but it’s a small cost to pay to be in your child’s life. The court ultimately determines the exact child support payments, but you should take the opportunity to seek joint custody for your child.

If joint custody is not your ultimate goal, you can also seek other modifications to the child custody agreement, such as visitation or active involvement in your child’s future. As a single father, you get to decide how paternity best works for you and your relationship with your son or daughter.

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