A pre-requisite to an order of child support or child custody is that a parent-child relationship exists. Under Missouri Statute 210.819, a parent child-relationship is established in one of three ways. One of the more common ways it is established is through paternity proceedings. Missouri Statutes set up a scheme whereby there is either a presumption of paternity or paternity is proven with evidence in a formal hearing.
210.822 RSMo puts forth four different way a rebuttable presumption of paternity can be established:
“(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.”
Keep in mind that a showing under one of these four methods creates only a rebuttable presumption. Indeed, a party can present evidence to the contrary which rebuts a showing of paternity. As is frequently the case, though, a presumption of paternity is not always present. In such cases, evidence relating to paternity generally has to be presented. Missouri law focuses on a number of types of evidence that are presentable in such proceedings: (1) Evidence of sexual intercourse between the mother and the alleged father during the possible time of conception of the child; (2) An expert’s opinion concerning the probability of the alleged father’s paternity of the child based upon the duration of the mother’s pregnancy; (3) Blood test results, weighed in accordance with the evidence of the statistical probability of the alleged father’s paternity of the child; (4) Medical or anthropological evidence relating to the alleged father’s paternity of the child based on tests performed by experts; and (5) All other evidence relevant to the issue of the paternity of the child.
From my experience, most clients often overlook that a legal finding of paternity needs to be made before support or custody arrangements are ordered by a Court. Sometimes it is easy. Sometimes it is difficult. No matter the case, however, it’s important to consult with an attorney to make the process easier.