Blue puzzles with a word LAW.

“I’m pregnant – now what?”

Many questions may flood your mind when facing an unexpected pregnancy. There is a legal side to this situation that also has options and requires credible information to know what to do.

“What if I’m not sure who the father is?”

“Do I have to put the father’s name on the birth certificate?”

“What about child support?” – “What are my options?”

Birthright of St. Charles can help you navigate through those questions and offer you information and direction on how to find answers to your questions. Birthright can also offer referrals for legal services as appropriate. While the support and guidance from Birthright is helpful, it does NOT take the place of professional legal advice.


How is paternity established?

The easiest way to establish paternity is for both parents to sign an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity at the hospital when the baby is born.

In Missouri, paternity of a child is presumed when a man and a child’s natural mother are married, after a child’s birth, a man and the child’s natural mother have married, or /and the man has acknowledged his paternity in writing and filed it with the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records.

If there is uncertainty as to whether the man is the biological (natural) father, a paternity test should be done. Either parent, the child or the state can also take the case to court and ask a judge to determine who the father is. A paternity case can be filed any time before the child turns 18. If either parent refuse to establish paternity, either parent may ask Family Support Division (FSD) for help or talk with a private attorney. FSD or court can order the paternity test at the request of a parent or the child’s custodian. Once results are obtained, FSD or the court may enter an order establishing paternity and child support.


How do they do a paternity test?

Paternity testing (also known as DNA testing or genetic testing) involves a simple swipe of a cotton swab inside the cheek of the baby, mother and man. From the sample taken, a laboratory can provide results which show at least a 98 percent probability that the man is the father, a finding which by Missouri law indicates he is the presumed father.


Who pays for the paternity test?

If both parents voluntarily decide to have the testing done, then you and he will have to agree on how you will pay for it. If the testing is done through the Family Support Division, FSD may pay the cost of the testing. If the results show the male tested is the father, he may be ordered to pay for the cost. If the testing was ordered by a court, then the court will make an order about who should pay the cost of the testing.


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. If the father is not in agreement, he’ll have to file an action in court to try to have the name changed. 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. A paternity case may be filed in the circuit court in the county where the child lives, where the mother lives or where the person believed to be the father lives. Click here for more information on Paternity, Birth Certificates and Child Support.  


Why Should Either Parent Establish Paternity?

Establishing paternity ensures that either parent can seek child support from the other. It will also allow a child to be placed on the father’s health insurance policy. When the father dies, paternity ensures that the child can inherit from the father and receive Social Security and Veteran’s benefits on the father’s record, if such benefits are available.

If a father doesn’t take steps to acknowledge his paternity, he could lose important rights to custody or visitation with his child.

For more information see Paternity Forms.