If you are expecting (or already have) a baby and have not married the child’s other parent, you must establish legal paternity in Missouri. Doing so provides access to custody and visitation for both parents and creates a financial child support obligation.

These are the possible routes to establishing Missouri paternity for unmarried parents:

Affidavit acknowledging paternity

If both parents are sure of paternity, they can sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity at the hospital after the birth. This creates legal paternity, and the father’s name will appear on the child’s birth certificate. You can also submit this form through the state’s Bureau of Vital Records any time after the birth until the child turns 18.

Court-ordered legal paternity

Either parent can seek a court determination of paternity through the state Family Support Division. To start this process, complete Missouri’s Application for Child Support Services. You can ask the agency to create a court order establishing paternity, to locate the other parent and/or to order a DNA test when you are unsure about paternity. If the test shows that the man has a 98% chance of being the father, the court names him as the legal father. However, both parents must then complete the affidavit acknowledging paternity.

Putative Father Registry

If you believe that you have fathered a child, you can add your name and contact information to the state’s Putative Father Registry. If you cannot find the child’s mother or she will not agree to establish paternity, the court will notify you if the mother has placed the child for adoption without your consent. To join this registry, you must complete Missouri’s Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity and submit it to the state Bureau of Vital Records.

After the court establishes a legal paternity order, either parent can request custody, visitation or child support. This order also allows the child to collect benefits on behalf of the father, such as veteran and survivor benefits.