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Do unmarried fathers in Missouri have any parental rights?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Paternity |

People who are preparing for a divorce typically understand that they have rights as parents. Both fathers and mothers can ask for parenting time and an allocation of parental authority as part of divorce proceedings. Fathers who never married the mothers of their children may feel less confident about using their parental rights.

Frequently, men wrongfully believe that their relationship with their children is contingent upon the consent and cooperation of the mother. This belief may deter otherwise devoted and caring fathers from preserving their relationships with their children.

Do unmarried fathers have parental rights under the law in Missouri?

Unmarried fathers can play an important parenting role

Married fathers generally have an easier time than unmarried fathers asserting their rights. The state assumes their paternity, meaning that the pursuit of parenting time and decision-making authority is somewhat easier because of their established parentage.

Unmarried fathers potentially have the same rights as mothers and married fathers, but they have to take additional steps to use those rights. It is necessary to establish paternity if a father wants to seek an allocation of parenting time and decision-making authority.

Under current rules, fathers can cooperate with the mothers of their children to voluntarily add their names to the birth certificate. Fathers can cooperate with the mothers of their children at any point while the children are still minors to establish their parentage. Once they do that, they can then request parenting time or a degree of decision-making authority.

If the mother is uncooperative and does not want to acknowledge the father, he may need to take the matter to family court. The courts can order genetic testing to validate his relationship with the child. Then, after affirming the relationship, the courts can hear a petition about splitting up parental rights and responsibilities now that the father has established himself as someone with a legal parental relationship with the child.

Unmarried fathers can potentially secure sole custody in some cases or equally-shared parental rights and responsibilities in others. That path toward parental involvement typically begins with an effort to establish paternity with the state. Undergoing genetic testing or filling out paperwork can help the father prove that he is the parent of a child. Learning about paternity and custody rules can benefit fathers who are unsure of their rights but eager to maintain their relationships with their children.

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