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Many couples start a family before they get married. If you have children before you get married, it’s important to know what parental rights you have, just in case the time comes where you and your partner don’t see eye to eye. Our child custody lawyers at the Lake of the Ozarks are here to give you some key information on your legal rights as an unmarried parent.

Deputy & Mizell, Injury Attorneys near Lake of the Ozarks

Your Legal Rights as an Unmarried Parent

3 Key Factors You Should Know

Factor # 1
When parents are married, it is automatically assumed that the father is the husband. This means the father and mother share custody. If they aren’t married, determining who the father is (and who shares custody) can be a bit more complicated.

Factor # 2
If an unmarried woman has a child, custody of that child will usually go to her primarily. However, if the mother shows she is unfit to parent the child, then the court may decide otherwise. Examples of being unfit to parent a child can include:

  • Abandoning the child
  • Alcohol or drug related issues
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual offenses
  • Emotional abuse to the child

Factor # 3


According to the Missouri Courts of Judicial Branch of Government, there are 3 ways to know if paternity has been established.
man can be recognized as the father of the child by:

1. Consent: Mother and father both may sign an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity in the hospital at the time the child is born
2. Declaration of Paternity: A man who believes he is the father of the child can file a Declaration of Paternity with the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records

You may have to have a DNA paternity test ran or sign a voluntary declaration of paternity when the child is born. It’s important to realize that an unmarried mother typically cannot seek child support from the biological father if he has not legally established paternity.

3. Judgment: A judgment entered by a court finding that a man is the legal father of the child.

However, an administrative order for child support is not a court order and, by itself, does not establish custody. When the administrative child support order is approved by a court, it may contain a judicial determination of custody.

You must look at the court order(s) that set child support or otherwise involve the child. If the order makes a determination of paternity (names a legal father), you may use the Petition for Child Custody, if you are named as a parent and there is no court-ordered Parenting Plan (custody order). If you are not sure, take your paperwork to a lawyer to discuss your status as a legal parent.

Deputy & Mizell, Injury Attorneys near Lake of the Ozarks

“It is critical to maintain boundaries between adult problems and children. Please protect you children’s innocence and allow them to remain children. They must not be burdened by adult problems. Kids don’t have the coping skills or the intellectual ability to understand money worries, adult relationship issues or their parents’ unhappiness.” – Author Unknown

Having Trouble Gaining Custody of Your Child as an Unmarried Parent?

Our experienced attorneys at the Lake of the Ozarks understand how difficult this sort of situation can be. You can rely on Deputy & Mizell to pursue every available option in an effort to ensure that you are in the best possible situation as you attempt to get custody of your child. We are not afraid to fight aggressively to obtain the best possible outcome in your case. While we always attempt to negotiate a fair resolution without the need for costly and painful litigation, our opponents know that we will not hesitate to go to court in order to protect our clients’ interests. Call one of our offices listed below or sign up on our website for a free consultation today.


Deputy & Mizell, Injury Attorneys near Lake of the Ozarks

Contact Deputy & Mizell, LLC to schedule your private (FREE) consultation today.

Representing Clients Across the Lake of the Ozarks Region

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