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A Child Custody Lawyer Answers: Who Has Legal Custody of a Child when the Parents Are Not Married in St. Louis?

Under state law, the mother of a child born to unmarried parents is automatically given sole custody. However, there are numerous ways in which a father can establish his paternal rights with the help of a child custody lawyer. Whether or not this process is simple or complex depends on if the parents are on the same page.

When both parents are in agreement about the question of paternity, the process of establishing the rights of the father are simple. Should either parent object, the courts will likely be forced to get involved.

If you are facing a potential child custody dispute in Missouri with someone that you are not married to, it is important you have skilled child custody lawyer on your side. Let the R. Rench Law Firm, LLC fight for your rights as a parent.


Why is it Important to Establish Paternity?

There are different reasons why it is important to establish the paternity of a minor child. These reasons can benefit different individuals, from the child to the parents. For starters, paternity gives the father the right to seek custody or visitation with the child. It also opens up the possibility of court-ordered child support. Establishing paternity also gives the father the opportunity to be heard during adoption proceedings.

Establishing paternity could benefit the child as well. Developing a relationship with both parents can be beneficial on an emotional level. What’s more, it could provide the child with insight into any family health issues that might exists. Establishing paternity could also help the child qualify for government benefits or even an inheritance.


Options for Establishing Paternity in St. Louis

While an unmarried father does not have inherent parental rights under state law, there are many ways to establish those rights. In some cases, the paternity of the father could be established before the mother and child ever leave the hospital. The options for establishing paternity in Missouri include:


Paternity by Consent

The simplest way for an unmarried couple to establish paternity is to do it voluntarily. This requires both parents to agree on the identity of the father. Should either object, this option is not available.

Voluntarily establishing paternity is done by executing a legal document known as the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. Once both parents willingly execute this document, the courts will formally recognize the father’s parental rights.


Paternity Through Legal Action

There are times when the voluntary path to establishing paternity is not an option. In some cases, the relationship between the parents could be difficult which could prevent them from coming to an agreement about an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. In other situations, one of the parties might dispute the identity of the father. This is especially common with an individual does not believe that they are the father of the minor child.

When there are disputes regarding the paternity of a child, there is little option but to let the courts resolve the issue. Either parent has the right to petition the court and seek a determination of paternity.

Once the petition is filed and the other parent is served with notice, the court will typically order DNA testing to be conducted with the child and the father. If there is a genetic match, the court will issue an order establishing paternity.

From this point forward, the father enjoys the rights and responsibilities that come with parenthood. They will have the chance to seek custody and visitation, but they could also face demands for child support.


Learn How Our Child Custody Lawyers Could Help in St. Louis

While mothers initially have legal custody over a child born outside of marriage, the father has several avenues for pursuing parental rights. This pursuit does not have to occur alone, as an experienced family law attorney could help.

The J. Rench Law Firm, LLC understands the importance of establishing legal paternity. If you are facing the prospect of a paternity dispute or seek guidance on how best to proceed, reach out right away to schedule your initial consultation.






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