When an unmarried couple has a child, the mother is the baby’s only legal parent unless there is another parent listed on the birth certificate. If that does not happen, only the mother has parental rights to the child, and only she owes the child financial support.
Mothers who want their baby’s father or other parent to share the cost of raising the child, and fathers wanting to be involved in their child’s life, might bring a paternity action. This kind of lawsuit asks a judge to recognize the legal parent of a child with only one parent on the birth certificate.
If you wish to bring a paternity action or prevent a judge from naming a father, consider speaking with a Ballwin paternity lawyer from our firm. A knowledgeable attorney could thoroughly explain the process ahead and help you meet your goals regarding paternity.
Voluntarily Acknowledging Paternity
As an attorney can further explain, there are multiple benefits to legally establishing paternity. The father’s name will be listed on the child’s birth certificate, and the child could be eligible for benefits if the father receives Social Security or Veteran’s Disability. The father will have the right to build a relationship with the child and the obligation to provide financial support. If the mother dies or cannot care for the child, the father could step in and prevent the child from going into foster care.
If you and your co-parent choose to establish a child’s paternity, you do so by completing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. Both parents must sign the document in front of a notary. The forms are available in the hospital, some pediatrician’s offices, and at the Department of Health and Senior Service’s Bureau of Vital Records and Family Support Division. The form for Missouri can be found online here.
Sometimes couples recognize the value of establishing paternity once the child is older. You and your co-parent can file an Acknowledgment of Paternity form anytime before the child’s 18th birthday. When the Bureau of Vital Records receives the form, the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate.
Establishing Paternity Through Genetic Testing
Sometimes, the parentage of a child may be up for debate. A genetic test is necessary in these cases.
Either parent could pursue a court order to undergo genetic testing. A Ballwin paternity attorney could help a parent prepare the order asking for court intervention. If the results indicate that the man is the father, the court will issue an order to establish his paternity.
A child’s legal father is obligated to provide financial support. Missouri publishes child support guidelines that calculate the amount of support based on both parents’ incomes, other children either parent supports, and other factors. A father must pay child support even if he has no relationship with the child.
Visitation Rights Depend on the Child’s Best Interests
Once a man is named a child’s legal parent, he has the right to seek custody and visitation. Parents often negotiate an agreement to allow a father to spend time with their child. If you and your co-parent negotiate a parenting plan, you could submit it to the court. If the judge approves it, the court will issue it as an order, making it enforceable by both of you.
Sometimes a mother objects to the man establishing a relationship with the child. If the father seeks visitation and the mother objects, a court must decide what arrangement is in the child’s best interests. Missouri Revised Statutes §452.375 presumes that children benefit from meaningful relationships with both parents. A mother who objects to the father developing a relationship with the child must prove that the father’s presence in the child’s life is not in their best interests.
Judges decide what serves a child’s best interests by considering multiple factors, including each parent’s relationship with the child, willingness to meet the child’s needs, and ability to work cooperatively to co-parent. If a parent has a history of domestic violence, child abuse, or other specific offenses, a judge could find that a relationship is not in a child’s best interests. A Ballwin paternity attorney could present arguments showing that a parent’s goals are in their child’s best interests.
Rely On a Ballwin Paternity Attorney Today
Whether you wish to establish the paternity of your child or defend against a claim of paternity, a Ballwin paternity lawyer from Jones Family Law Group, LLC could provide the guidance and support you need. A paternity claim could be emotionally challenging, but you do not need to go through it alone.
Capable legal guidance can relieve anxiety and instill confidence that you are doing the right thing for your child. Call our firm today to schedule a consultation