The Unmarried Father and His Rights to His Child

20 Mar The Unmarried Father and His Rights to His Child

I didn’t settle down and get married until my early 30’s. And I wasn’t a late bloomer. Couples are waiting longer than ever to get married and have a family. This has its ups and has its downs. On the positive side, divorce is the lowest that it has been since the early 90’s. On the negative side, it means that people are more likely to stay in committed, monogamous relationships without getting married. This brings up an important issue about father’s rights in Missouri.

The implication is that more and more people are having children out of wedlock. Unmarried fathers are becoming par for the course. It is socially acceptable and people feel more secure and comfortable in taking the risk. However, it is a risk. And couples do occasionally break up. When that happens, the unmarried father is often left scrambling to negotiate custody with his ex. Father’s rights in Missouri are established when a child is born in wedlock or later legitimized in wedlock. Paternity is a Court action.

Maternity rights are implied. A mother automatically has certain legal protections. Paternity rights, which are the rights of the father, are not implied. In the case of a father who is not married to the mother, paternity is established in Court. Yes, you can get a test from DSS and establish an administrative child support order. But that does not actually give the father any say over the child or visitation. It merely establishes child support, which can be changed in Court.

A father that wants full rights- such as to play a part in how the child is being raised, educated, and where he or she lives as well as being present throughout the child’s life- then he needs to file a Motion to Establish Paternity with the Circuit Court. Once in Circuit Court, every issue surrounding the child and the parental rights will be litigated. On the table will be issues such as custody/visitation, legal custody (which is to say who has a say in things such as education), and child support. Only then will he have enforceable rights in relation to his child.

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