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Establishing paternity is essential for unwed fathers

8507983_S (1).jpgFathers of children born out of wedlock typically have understandable concerns regarding their legal rights. Unfortunately, many Missouri fathers are under the impression that they have fewer legal rights than those who fathered children in a marriage. Once paternity is established, fathers can move forward with establishing custody rights to build a relationship with their children.

The easiest way to establish paternity of a child is for both parents to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, which can either be done when the child is born or sometime after. Since this document requires both parents, it is not useful in cases of disputed paternity. While many women initiate legal procedures to determine paternity, men may also make the first move and request a court-ordered DNA test.

After determining paternity, some fathers find that the mothers of their children are still reluctant to negotiate any type of parenting time. Fathers can assert their paternal rights by petitioning a family law court for help with establishing a custody arrangement. A contested hearing is used when parents cannot agree on custody matters, and focuses on what is in the best interests of the involved child. Most courts operate on the assumption that children do best with some level of involvement with both parents.

Spending time with children is important, and sadly many fathers feel that they are not granted enough opportunities to do so. However, there are protections for fathers' rights within Missouri family law. By establishing paternity and seeking child custody arrangements through the courts, fathers can ensure that they will have a legal avenue to ensure ongoing relationships with their children.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Visitation, Child Custody and Unmarried Fathers", Accessed on Oct. 9, 2017

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