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If a mother and father were married at the time of birth then there will always be a presumed legal father. However, if there is no marriage in place at birth, then Missouri law provides for ways to determine the legal father, if possible.  Note that not all circumstances fit into the provisions below.  It’s also important to note that if one of the statutory factors is met, that still only creates a presumption of paternity.  Any such presumption can be challenged in the manner described in the second section of this page.

A man shall be presumed to be the natural father of a child if: 

(1) He and the child's natural mother are or have been married to each other and the child is born during the marriage, or within three hundred days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or dissolution, or after a decree of separation is entered by a court; or 

(2) Before the child's birth, he and the child's natural mother have attempted to marry each other by a marriage solemnized in apparent compliance with the law, although the attempted marriage is or may be declared invalid, and: 

(a) If the attempted marriage may be declared invalid only by a court, the child is born during the attempted marriage or within three hundred days after its termination by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity or dissolution; or 

(b) If the marriage is invalid without a court order, the child is born within three hundred days after the termination of cohabitation; or 

(3) After the child's birth, he and the child's natural mother have married or attempted to marry each other by a marriage solemnized in apparent compliance with law, although the marriage is or may be declared invalid, and: 

(a) He has acknowledged his paternity of the child in writing filed with the bureau; or 

(b) With his consent, he is named as the child's father on the child's birth certificate; or 

(c) He is obligated to support the child pursuant to a written voluntary promise or by court order; or 

(4) An expert concludes that the blood tests show that the alleged parent is not excluded and that the probability of paternity is ninety-eight percent or higher, using a prior probability of 0.5. 

2. A presumption pursuant to this section may be rebutted in an appropriate action only by clear and convincing evidence, except that a presumption under subsection 1 of this section that arises from a blood test or the filing of an acknowledgment of paternity in a state or territory in which the blood test or the filing creates a conclusive presumption by law also has conclusive effect in Missouri. If two or more presumptions arise which conflict with each other, the presumption which on the facts is founded on the weightier considerations of policy and logic controls. The presumption is rebutted by a court decree establishing the paternity of the child by another man. 

As can be seen in the language from the law above, the two most common ways for a man to be found to be the presumed legal father is if the birth occurred during a valid marriage or there is a DNA test performed that returns a probability of paternity of 98% or higher.  However, in the absence of a valid marriage, a DNA test is not necessary if both parties agree that the male is the father and formally acknowledge it to the court.  A court can then choose to enter a finding of paternity.  

As mentioned above, Missouri law only provides for a presumed legal father but this presumption may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence (for example, a DNA test to show that a husband is not the biological father of his presumed legal child).  The following persons or organizations can bring a paternity action when there is a dispute as to who the legal father might be:

• The child 

• The child’s natural mother 

• The child’s presumed father 

• A man alleging himself to be the father 

• Any person having legal or legal custody of the child for more than sixty days 

• The Family Support Division of the State of Missouri

More often than not, a contested paternity action will lead to either a voluntary or court-ordered DNA test as this is the most accurate way to determine paternity.  If a paternity action is brought against a man, he has the right to challenge the allegations in court and to request a DNA test.  This is especially important because mothers can open cases with the State though the Family Support Division and receive an order for child support against the alleged father even though paternity has not been established.  The man can, of course, contest this both administratively and through the court with a paternity action.  It’s a good idea for both sides in a paternity dispute to avail themselves of the court system.  Even parents who agree on paternity and are generally in agreement should go to court so they can receive a judicial finding of legal paternity and establish standards for child support and custody.  Doing so will help to avoid problems later when the parties may no longer be on friendly terms.