When the parents of the child are married, the state of Missouri presumes the husband is the legal father. However, when the parents are not married at the time of birth, the father must prove his paternity before gaining any visitation, custody or child support rights. Also, without proof of paternity, the child loses some of his rights such as his entitlement to health and life insurance, inheritance and veteran's benefits.
An unmarried father can establish his paternity of a child using two methods. If neither parent disputes the child's paternity, they can voluntarily sign an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity provided by the hospital at the time of birth. Parents don't have to sign this form at the hospital. They can secure the form from the Bureau of Vital Records or the Family Support Division-Child Support Enforcement any time after the birth, no matter the child's age.
If either parent is uncertain about the paternity of the child, he can voluntarily submit to a genetics test provided by FSD-CSE. According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, if the genetic test results show "at least a 98 percent probability that the man is the father, then Missouri law says he is the presumed father." If the mother or father refuses to sign an affidavit or submit to a genetics test, either parent can contact FSD-CSE or a lawyer. FSD-CSE or a court can order a mandatory genetic test.
Visitation and Custody
Once paternity has been established, the mother and father may settle on a visitation or custody agreement without the court's intervention. However, if they cannot decide on an arrangement, the courts will decide one for them based on the best interest of the child --- not either parent's presumptive rights. Missouri takes into consideration eight factors when deciding this: the parents wishes and their parenting plans; each parents' ability to perform as a parent; the child's relationship with both his parents, siblings and any other person significant to the child's life; each parents' willingness to foster the child's relationship with the other parents; the child's performance at home, school and within the community; the psychological and physiological health of the child and parents; and the child's preferred custodial parents.
Once the father establishes paternity, he's eligible to pay or receive child support. Either parent can petition FSD-CSE or the court for child support. If the father has primary physical custody of the child, mostly likely the courts will order the mother to pay child support to him. Missouri determines the amount of financial support paid based on the parents' income, ability to pay and the child's needs.