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Understanding Paternity Disputes

April 14, 2021

Man Holding baby's handPaternity disputes are about the welfare of the child (or children). Regardless of any formal or legal relationship between a couple, they each have legal responsibilities and rights to their shared biological children. In fact, establishing the legal paternity of a father can be equally important to the father, mother, and child, regardless of the length of the parents' relationship that led to them having a child.

If you want to establish the paternity of your child, you don’t have to do it on your own. You should seek sound legal advice about your paternity rights rather than getting it from a well-meaning family member or friends. If you are a father who wants to gain legal rights to spend time with your child, or a mother who knows her child can benefit from the father’s support, you should speak with an experienced and knowledgeable paternity attorney.

At Rundberg Law, LLC, Ron Rundberg helps people throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, in both Kansas and Missouri, establish the paternity rights of parents to benefit and protect their children.

Establishing Paternity is Important

The definition of paternity is “fatherhood.” The mother who delivers a child is automatically understood to be the mother, but the paternity of the child must be established. Both parents are legally responsible to provide financial support for their child.

Paternity is important for children who can qualify for benefits through the father, including Social Security, health insurance, and claims against the father’s estate. It may also be important to know their medical history.

For the mother, paternity establishes the father’s legal obligation to provide for the financial needs of the child by paying child support. It may also encourage the father to have a relationship with the child as part of a parenting plan.

A father establishing paternity can have his name placed on the child’s birth certificate, obtain parenting time with the child, and add dependent children to health or dental insurance. Fathers need paternity established to gain the legal rights of a parent.

How to Establish Paternity in Kansas

In Kansas, married couples are assumed to be the parents of a newborn child, but paternity needs to be established when a child is born to unmarried parents. If both parents sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form when the child is born or shortly thereafter, the father’s name will be placed on the child's birth certificate. Having the father's name on the birth certificate only makes him the presumed father. It does not grant him any legal rights to the child. If the father chooses to not sign at the time, the parents have until the child’s 18th birthday to sign a paternity consent form for birth registration, after which his name is added to the birth certificate.

The only way a father can be granted legal rights to a child is by filing a paternity petition in the county where the child resides. A mother must file a paternity petition if she wants to establish the legal father and have him ordered to pay child support. If the court determines paternity, it will issue orders regarding child support, legal custody, and parenting time.

How to Establish Paternity in Missouri

As in Kansas, Missouri couples who are married at the time of a child’s birth are presumed to be the parents of the child. If the parents are not married, both parents may sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity at the hospital to have the father’s name placed on the birth certificate. If they do not sign the affidavit at that time, they may sign an affidavit later via the Bureau of Vital Statistics or Family Support Division. This does not grant the father any legal rights to the child.

Either parent may file a paternity petition to establish legal rights and obligations to a child. If the father disputes that he is the child's father, the court will order that the father submit to DNA testing to determine whether or not he is the child's father.

What to do When Disputes Occur

A parent wishing to establish paternity rights should consult with an experienced family law attorney in the state in which the child resides. The attorney will help you navigate the legal process. Many times, parents can work out a parenting plan through mediation and not have to go to court. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, a hearing will have to be held for the parents to present evidence about what parenting schedule is in the best interests of the child.

Get Help from an Experienced Attorney

Establishing paternity is an important step for mothers, fathers, and children, and can change the lives of everyone involved. The process can be difficult and and it is nearly always emotional. If you are a parent who wants to establish paternity rights, the best choice you can make is to retain an experienced and court-tested family law attorney to represent you.

At Rundberg Law, LLC, I have been helping clients in Overland Park and Johnson County, Kansas and throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area for decades. From establishing paternity through drafting parenting plans and child support agreements to presenting evidence to the court, I help clients navigate the legal complexities of paternity.

A paternity action is necessary for establishing the legal rights of unmarried parents. Don’t wait to begin the process of establishing your legal rights to your child. Call my office today to schedule a consultation.