Paternity actions are the method by which a child custody schedule and child support amount can be established for parents who have a child in common but were not married to each other at the time of the birth of the child.
Paternity actions begin with the filing of a Petition by either parent in either county in which one of the parents resides or the minor child resides. A paternity action typically seeks a court order naming the parents of the child, setting forth both the legal custody and physical custody arrangements for the minor child in the form of a parenting plan and the establishment of a monthly child support amount paid by one parent to the other parent.
In paternity actions, a presumption of the biological, father-child relationship is established, either by DNA testing results, an agreement of the parties, or the father’s name having been placed on the child’s birth certificate. Once the father of a child has been established, a custody order for the minor child will be established setting forth both the legal custody rights and the physical custody rights of the parents.
Legal custody will be either sole or joint, and will establish who has the decision-making rights when it comes to the child and how those decisions will be made. These decisions include choice of doctors, schools, child care providers, religious upbringing and so on. In general if the parents share joint legal custody of the child, they must agree on each of these major decisions on behalf of the child and have an equal say in the final decision. If one parent is awarded sole legal custody they will generally have final say on these decisions.
In addition to legal custody, the court will also determine which party shall have physical custody of the child, which again will be either sole or joint. A parenting plan will be established setting forth which day(s) each parent will have custody of the child, and will include special provisions for holidays, vacations and summertime. In all legal and physical custody determinations, the Court uses the those Missouri statutory factors to determine what is in the best interests of the minor child.
In a paternity action, child support will be determined in accordance with a Form 14 calculation. The use of this form is set forth per Supreme Court Rule 88.01, and takes into account each parent’s incomes, and factors such as the amount of overnights the paying parent has with the child and additional costs of health insurance, daycare, and some extraordinary expenses. This Form 14 is used in all family court cases where a child support amount needs to be determined, however in limited circumstances it can be deemed unjust and inappropriate and a different child support number will be ordered.
An administrative child support order can be established through the Family Support Division of Missouri Department of Social Services. However, this order will be trumped by any order that is put forth by the Family Court of the Circuit Court in the county where the Petition For Declaration of Paternity is properly filed.
A paternity action is advisable in almost all cases where both parents are involved in the child’s life and seek to have an established custody schedule and support plan in place that supports the child’s best interests. For help with a paternity action in St. Charles County, St. Louis County, Lincoln County, Warren County or Pike County, please contact our office today.