What does it mean to establish paternity?

Establishing paternity is the process used to determine whether or not a man is a child’s biological and legal father. This must be complete before we can establish a child support order.

How do I establish paternity?

Parents who are not married can establish legal paternity for a child by:

  • Signing an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity at the hospital when the baby is born. When both parents complete this Affidavit, the man becomes the legal father of the child and his name is placed on the child’s birth certificate.
  • If the parents don’t complete the Affidavit at the hospital, it’s not too late. Contact the Department of Health and Senior Services’ Bureau of Vital Records or the Family Support Division (FSD) to get an Affidavit or for help completing one.
  • Obtaining an order naming the man as the father of the child. Call 855-454-8037 for help.

When the mother is married, but not to the father of the child, the mother and her husband will need to fill out the Husband's Denial of Paternity, which is part of the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. If the husband is not cooperative or his location is unknown, the married mother may apply for Child Support services to assist with getting an order that establishes paternity.

What if I'm not sure who the father is?

If paternity has not already been established, you can get free paternity testing through the Family Support Division. Paternity testing (also known as DNA testing or genetic testing) involves a simple swipe of a Q-tip©–like swab inside the cheek of the child, mother, and the man. The samples are then sent to a laboratory for testing. If the results of the genetic test show at least a 98 percent probability that the man is the father, then the man is the presumed father under Missouri law.

It is important to note that genetic testing alone does not establish legal paternity. Parents must complete an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity or obtain an order naming the man as the father of the child.


For help with paternity questions, such as how to get the father’s name listed on the child’s birth certificate or how to get free paternity testing, please call 855-454-8037.

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