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Hyland Law Firm LLC Sept. 26, 2016

As an experienced family law attorney in both Missouri and Kansas, I have seen numerous cases arise where a child is not born out of a marriage, the relationship between the unmarried parents ultimately ends, and the father is then prohibited by the unwed mother from seeing his children. If you have experienced this situation, it is important to understand that as a father, you have legal rights - once established - to see your children as well as to receive or be obligated to pay child support. However, the outcome of your paternity action, including your rights and obligations regarding child support and custody, all depends upon the specific set of circumstances unique to your case.

Overall, the way in which to assert your rights is through filing a paternity case, which is a legal action to determine paternity of a child, and to seek court mandated custody, support and/or visitation. While many paternity actions are often filed by an unmarried mother seeking support from the father, times are certainly changing in this regard. In the past few years, an increasing number of cases have come across my desk where the father has been unjustly cut off from seeing his child(ren) and as such, wants to have something formally binding to legally prevent the mother from doing this again.

As for most paternity actions, they usually arise between parties who were not married at the time that a child is born of the relationship. Paternity actions can also occur where a party to a marriage is impregnated by someone other than her husband or the husband himself impregnates someone else outside of the marriage.

How then, is paternity determined in Kansas and Missouri? Medical centers in both of the aforementioned states have forms where the father can identify himself as the child's natural father. A father can also sign the child's birth certificate, which also helps to prove paternity. While the aforementioned certainly have a presumptive effect as to paternity, the only way to truly establish your legal rights is through a paternity proceeding. In order to initiate a paternity proceeding, a legal petition is usually filed by the party seeking a paternity determination (and sometimes along with other documentation such as financial statements, etc.). The judge, during said case, can order a DNA test to determine parentage, which usually arises in situations where a father did not sign any paternity form or the child's birth certificate (and wants to be judicially established as the father of the child), or where a party denies parentage. DNA tests are not required where both parties do not contest paternity of the child.

Once a paternity action is filed, what happens next? In terms of custody, a child can be awarded to either party, just as in a divorce action. The parties can also create a custody and visitation plan and have the court approve it, once finalized. As for child support, the same general rules also apply as in divorce cases. Otherwise stated, either party can be ordered to pay child support, depending upon the specific custodial and visitation arrangement as agreed to by the parties or as ordered by the court (if the parties cannot agree on their own).

If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing a paternity or divorce action, give us a call now to learn more about your legal options, your rights and responsibilities, and how we can help you get what you want out of your case. My team and I look forward to providing you with excellent legal representation