Paternity establishment is the process of determining that a man is a child’s legal father. Paternity must be determined prior to establishing a child support order.

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 at the hospital when the baby is born. The Affidavit allows the parents to voluntarily declare paternity for the child. When both parents properly complete and sign their respective 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. The parents can contact the Department of Health and Senior Services’ Bureau of Vital Records or the Family Support Division (FSD) to get an Affidavit and assistance in completing the Affidavit to establish legal paternity.

  2. Obtain an order naming the man as the father of the child. FSD can assist with obtaining an order that establishes paternity.

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?

Free paternity testing may be obtained through FSD. 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. 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.

Note: FSD offers free paternity testing only when paternity has not been established.

More questions?

For assistance with paternity questions, such as how to get the father’s name listed on the child’s birth certificate or how to obtain paternity testing, please call toll free at 1-855-454-8037.


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