Paternity, Custody and
Child Support Cases


When paternity is in question or unmarried parents need a custody or child support court order, a paternity/custody case is often the best course of action.

Paternity – A paternity case in Missouri establishes legal rights to children born outside of marriage. If the father of a child is not listed on the child’s birth certificate the mother has no means to establish a child support order and the father has no means to require the mother to allow him custody time with the child. 

If parentage is at issue the court will usually require DNA testing to determine whether the alleged father is the natural father of the minor child. If a parent files a paternity case, he or she may seek financial support for the child as well as orders of custody and child support.

Child Support – Both parents have an obligation to support their children. The court uses the Missouri child support Form 14 to determine child support. Factors that are included in the calculation of child support include gross monthly income, cost of health insurance for the children, the number of overnights the children spend with each parent, and the cost of work related childcare if there are any. The Form 14 is utilized to calculated child support in dissolution cases as well as custody and paternity case.

Child Custody:

Missouri courts determine the rights of parents with respect to Legal Custody and Physical Custody.

Legal Custody: Legal custody decisions involve important decisions of the health, welfare and education of a child. Missouri courts favor joint legal custody for parents. If parents share joint legal custody, they jointly make decisions about the health, welfare, and education of the children.  They share information about decisions and make the decisions together. If one parent has sole legal custody, he or she makes all the decisions regarding health, welfare, and education. The sole legal custodian is usually required to consult with the other parent and inform him or her about education, medical issues, and other decisions as they arise.

Physical Custody: The Missouri courts also favor joint physical custody for parents. When appropriate, the Court will order equal custody time for each parent. The court is guided by the best interests of the child, and shall consider the following factors:

(1)  The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;

(2)  The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;

(3)  The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;

(4)  Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;

(5)  The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;

(6)  The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved.  If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence as defined in RSMO Section 455.010 has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law.  Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;

(7)  The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and

(8)  The wishes of a child as to the child’s custodian.  

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