What is paternity?

Paternity means fatherhood. A child whose parents are not married has no legal father. Paternity establishment is the process of making a man the legal father of his child.

What are the benefits of establishing paternity?

Once paternity is legally established, the father’s name will be placed on the child’s birth certificate. Then, (1) the child may be enrolled in the father’s health insurance plan; (2) the child will be eligible for Social Security and/or Veterans benefits should the father die or become disabled; (3) if necessary, both parents will be able to go to court for issues of custody, visitation, and support.

How is paternity established?

Parents who are not married may establish legal paternity for a child in one of two ways: (1) Both parents may sign an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity voluntarily declaring the paternity of the child. The man would then become the legal father and his name would be placed on the birth certificate. If the affidavit is not signed at the hospital, parents may contact the Bureau of Vital records or the Family Support Division to get assistance in completing the affidavit. (2) Obtain an order naming the man as the father of the child. The Missouri Family Support Division (FSD) can assist with obtaining an order that establishes paternity.

What if my husband is not the father of my child?

When the mother is married, but not to the father of the child, the Husband’s Denial of Paternity, a part of the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity, can be completed by the mother and her husband. If the husband is not cooperative or his location is unknown, the married mother may apply for Child Support services to assist with obtaining an order that establishes paternity.

What if I am uncertain about the paternity of my child?

If there is uncertainty as to whether the man is the biological (natural) father, a paternity test should be done. FSD offers free paternity testing only when paternity has not been established. Either the mother or the man who believes he might be the child’s father may apply for paternity testing through FSD. An application for FSD services is available on the Internet at

After taking a paternity test, how do I add the father’s name to the birth certificate?

After completing a paternity test, the parents may complete the paternity affidavit or obtain a court order that directs Birth Vital Records to update the child’s birth record.

What if either parent does not agree on establishing paternity?

If either the mother or father fail to agree to establish paternity, either parent may ask FSD for help. Either parent may also talk with a private attorney. When there is disagreement, FSD or a court can order the paternity test at the request of a parent or the child’s custodian. Once the test results are obtained, FSD or the court may enter an order establishing paternity and child support.

What last name goes on the child’s birth certificate?

When a baby is born to an unmarried mother, the mother can give the child a last name she chooses. Usually, when the parents agree who the father is, they will agree on a last name. This is easiest to do at the hospital when the child is born. If paternity is established after the mother leaves the hospital, the child’s last name may be changed when completing the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. If the parents decide to change the last name after the father’s name is added to the birth certificate, a court order is required.

How long after a child is born can paternity be established?

Parents can voluntarily establish paternity by completing the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity any time after their child’s birth, regardless of the child’s age. If the parents do not agree to establish paternity, either can bring an action — through FSD or the court — to establish paternity any time before the child’s 18th birthday. Children may also bring an action to establish paternity for themselves between the ages of 18 and 21.

Does paternity establishment give a father rights to custody and visitation?

The father and mother may agree on custody and visitation without court involvement. If they don’t agree, a court must settle the matter.

Will one of the parents have to pay support?

When parents voluntarily sign the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity, there is no order for support or medical coverage. FSD or a court can enter an order for support at the request of a parent or the child’s custodian. The parent who does not live with the child is usually required to provide financial and medical support. State guidelines are used to set the amount of support, based on the incomes of both parents.

What is the Putative Father Registry?

The Putative Father Registry records the names and addresses of fathers (or men who believe they might be fathers) of children born outside of marriage.

Why should a man enter his name on the Putative Father Registry?

The Putative Father Registry allows a man to officially claim he is, or believes he might be, the father of a child. A man might want to do this before paternity is legally established if he cannot find the child’s mother or if the mother does not want to establish paternity for the child.

How do I stop my child from being adopted without my consent?

The Putative Father Registry is used in adoption proceedings to identify the child’s father and promptly secure his consent to proceed with the adoption. A man who is concerned that his child might be adopted without his consent should place his name on the Putative Father Registry before the child’s birth, or within 15 days of the child’s birth, in order to be notified of an adoption proceeding for the child.

How do I sign up for the Putative Father Registry?

A man can add his name to the Putative Father Registry by filing a Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity with the Bureau of Vital Records (BVR). Filing this notice does not establish legal paternity, but it does create an official record of the man’s claim to be the father, or possible father, of a child. A man can obtain a copy of the Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity on the Internet at, or he may contact BVR directly at (573) 751–6387.

What are some agencies that help with Paternity?

To obtain a copy of the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity for completion, contact: Bureau of Vital Records PO Box 570 Jefferson City, MO 65102–0570

For more information about paternity, child support or paternity tests, contact: Family Support Division PO Box 6790 Jefferson City, MO 65102–6790, 1–855–454–8037,, TDD: 1–800–735–2966 VOICE: 1–800–735–2466

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