Married parents of a child are the presumed legal and biological parents of that child in Missouri. However, if the parents are not married, there is no legal presumption of parentage. Instead, only the parent who gave birth to the child is considered the legal and biological parent. To change this, certain steps must be taken to establish the other parent’s parental rights. Parental rights include the right to make legal decisions for the child, the right to custody and visitation, and the right to provide or receive child support. There are several ways that a parent can establish their rights and responsibilities to a child and establish paternity in Springfield, Missouri.

Establishing Paternity Through an Affidavit

Unmarried parents can establish the legal and biological other parent in a couple of ways. One of these is through an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. This is a voluntary legal form signed by both parents. This form may be completed:

  • At the hospital after the baby is born
  • By contacting the Department of Health and Senior Services Bureau of Vital Records or the Family Support Division (FSD).

If the affidavit is signed at the hospital, the other parent’s name can be added to the birth certificate. Parents can request a secondary birth certificate with both their names on it if they were unable to sign an affidavit until later.

The state says that if either parent is unsure whether one is the biological parent, wait to sign the affidavit and request genetic testing. Genetic testing can establish the biological parent under Missouri law.

Establishing Paternity Through Court

The other way that parents can establish paternity is through the courts. If either parent refuses to sign the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity, either parent is allowed to file to establish paternity through a court order. This is considered a contested paternity. The court can order the non-filing parent to take genetic testing. Based on the results, the court will then enter an order establishing the parental rights of the biological parent. The court does not need parental consent to establish paternity.

Paternity Determinations During Marriage

If the parent who gave birth to the child is married, but not to the other parent of the child, it can be more complicated. The non-biological spouse would have to sign the Husband’s Denial of Paternity as part of the affidavit. If the non-biological spouse is unwilling to sign the denial of paternity or can’t be found, the other spouse may be able to apply for an order to establish paternity through child support services.

What If No Paternity Is Established?

The Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement may order child support even when there is no paternity action by either parent and the birthing parent is in need of financial support. This agency may order the other parent to provide child support, but they will not have any other parental rights to see, spend time with, or make legal decisions for their child.

Benefits of Establishing Paternity

It is usually in a child’s interests to establish paternity and have two legal parents. There are many benefits to establishing paternity, including:

  • Both parents have the right to make important legal decisions for their children.
  • Children receive emotional benefits and meaningful relationships with both parents.
  • Children may have a better sense of identity and stability.
  • Children have financial support from both parents.
  • Both parents have legal rights to spend time with their children.
  • Children tend to have better behavior and do better in school.
  • Both parents have equal rights to child custody and visitation.
  • Both parents have equal responsibility to provide child support.
  • Children have access to the medical history of both parents and their parents’ families.
  • Children can receive benefits such as Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and health insurance from both parents.
  • Both parents have the right to receive notice of any hearing regarding the child’s adoption or termination of their parental rights.

Establishing paternity can be easier with the help of a qualified attorney.


Q: How Do I Declare Paternity in Missouri?

A: Unmarried parents can declare paternity through a voluntary Affidavit of Acknowledging Paternity. Paternity can also be established by petitioning the court for genetic testing and a court-ordered paternity declaration. Married parents do not have to establish paternity unless paternity is contested, as the state presumes that a child born to married parents is their legal and biological child.

Q: Does the Biological Father Have Rights If He Is Not on the Birth Certificate in Missouri?

A: A parent’s name being on the birth certificate is often the result of establishing paternity, but it doesn’t automatically mean that they have parental rights. A parent being on the birth certificate does not give them court-enforceable parental rights unless paternity has been established through a voluntary affidavit or a court order. Establishing paternity allows a parent to have rights and responsibilities to legal decisions about the child, child custody, child support, and other important rights.

Q: Can a Mother Refuse a Paternity Test in Missouri?

A: If a paternity test is court-ordered, refusing can result in legal penalties such as fines. However, there are situations where either parent or an alleged parent is legally allowed to refuse testing. Discuss your situation with a paternity lawyer to determine what your legal rights and responsibilities are in such situations.

Q: What Is the Statute of Limitations for Paternity in Missouri?

A: If a child has only one biological and legal parent, a paternity action cannot be taken after they have turned 18. Any time before the child has turned 18, a paternity action can be requested by either parent, the child, or the state. If the child wishes to determine their biological parent, they have until the age of 21 to file with the court.

Establishing Paternity in Springfield

There are several benefits for children and parents when paternity is established. If you want to establish the legal paternity of your child, legal counsel can make the process easier. At Stange Law Firm, we have worked for years helping families through the legal system. We can walk you through establishing paternity and provide you with compassionate care. Contact our team today.