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Kansas City Divorce Lawyer - (816) 454-5600

PATERNITY

PATERNITY

 

If you are a parent of a child and are not married to the other parent, you have the right under Chapter 210 of the Missouri Revised Statutes (www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/statutes)  to initiate a Petition for Declaration of Paternity.  In that proceeding, a Court determines paternity of the child, custody issues and child support.  The Court will look at the divorce statutes, in particular, Section 452.375 (www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/statutes) of the revised statutes of Missouri in determining the custody arrangements.

 

In addition, the State of Missouri or in some cases, the State of Missouri at the request of another State can initiate a paternity proceeding against a parent.  This typically begins with the “Missouri Department of Social Services/Child Support Enforcement” contacting you and telling you that someone is claiming that you are the parent of a child for whom the State is paying benefits or that the parent with physical custody is asking that child support be paid by you.    If you have previously been determined to be the parent of the child and are already paying child support, then the State may be trying to modify child support.  You need to remember that in that type of proceeding (referred to as an “Administrative Proceeding”) the “hearing officer” will not be able to address the issue of custody and visitation.  The only issue is paternity and the amount of child support.  If you are the father and your name is on the birth certificate, then there is a legal “presumption” that you are, in fact, the father of the child.  At that point, you do not have a right in the “Administrative Proceeding” to contest paternity by asking for a paternity test (although sometimes the State will allow a paternity test).  The only issue at that point is the amount of child support you will pay.  If you want to contest paternity and/or address the issue of custody and visitation, then you have to initiate your own lawsuit against the mother and ask a court (judge) to address those issues.  This is typically referred to as a “Petition for Declaration (or non-declaration) of Paternity, Custody and Child Support.”   A proceeding in Court will supersede the “Administrative Proceeding.”   One of the reasons it is important to initiate your own case in Court if you have received papers for the “administrative hearing” is because of the availability of the “visitation credit” in the court proceeding.  The “visitation credit” is used to reduce the overall amount of child support you pay the parent with custody and is based on the number of overnights per year that you have the children.  The more overnights per year that you have a child, the greater your visitation credit and the lower your child support.