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What are the steps necessary to establish paternity?

Paternity is all about fatherhood. Legally, establishing paternity is about determining responsibility for child support if it is needed, but socially it is about establishing the relationship between a father and his child. Issues involving paternity can be complex in Missouri and elsewhere in the country, so understanding the basic process for establishing paternity and the reasons for it will help anyone who is currently dealing with the issue. Previous posts covered basic information on paternity; this post discusses the legal steps to establishing paternity in the state.

A father can be recognized as the father of a child if he signs an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. In most cases, this form is signed in the hospital shortly after a child is born. A man also can be recognized as the father of a child by filing a Declaration of Paternity. In addition, the Missouri Family Support Division can file a request to establish paternity and thus hold the father responsible for child support. The alleged biological father, the mother and the child will all undergo genetic testing. The test is performed at a nearby accredited laboratory using a cheek swab taken from each party. The swab contains enough skin cells with DNA that the biological ties between parents and child can be established. If the results show at least a 98 percent probability of paternity, then the state will recognize the man as the child's biological parent.

Establishing paternity brings about both responsibilities and rights. For example, the father will be required to financially support his child, through child support payments, if requested. The father also can be involved in the child's life through court-ordered visitation.

If and when legal issues arise from paternity disputes, it is usually best to consult a knowledgeable legal professional. By doing so, parents can better understand their rights.

Source: Mo.gov, "Establishing paternity," accessed on Nov. 4, 2014

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