Unwed Fathers' Rights in Missouri

By Kristen Marquette

father and daughter image by Francois du Plessis from Fotolia.com

In Missouri, an unwed father possesses no parental rights to his child unless he establishes his paternity of that child. The mother cannot ask for child support, and the father cannot ask for custody or visitation. If a court order establishes paternity, custody, visitation and child support can be requested.


At the time of his child’s birth, the father can sign an affidavit of paternity that allows his name to be placed on the child’s birth certificate. However, this affidavit does not grant him custody, visitation or child support rights. For those rights, he must file a paternity suit that grants him the right to petition for custody of his child. The lawsuit can be filed by the mother, father or state child support agency. Generally, DNA testing determines paternity. With that established, the courts will determine custody, visitation and child support.


Missouri determines custody of a child based on the best interest of the child, not the rights of the parents. When ruling in the best interest of a child, the court will consider eight factors in accordance with Missouri Statutes (Title 30, Chapter 452, Sections 375 and 400). The factors are: each parent's preferences and their proposed parenting plan; the needs of the child and the capacity and readiness of each parent to fulfill those needs as a parent; the mother-child relationship, the father-child relationship, and any sibling-child relationship; the parents’ willingness to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent; the child’s performance at home, school and within the community; the metal and physical health of the child, mother and father; whether the either parent intents to move the child out of the principal residence; and the child's preference. Custody is not based on the gender of the parent, nor is child support.

Child Support

Missouri uses the Income Shares Model to establish child support. The court estimates the financial support the child would have had if his parents remained together. This amount is divided between the parents based on the income of each parent. The parent who earns more has a higher financial responsibility to the child and will pay the other parent child support. It does not matter which parent is the custodial parent.

Read More: How to Get Child Support With No Custody Agreement