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The pros and cons of establishing paternity

If you are the father of a child who was born outside of marriage, you may be wondering what legal steps you need to take -- or if you need to take any steps at all.

You may have heard the term "paternity," and you may have been told that you should legally establish yourself as the father of your child, but why? Is it really worth it to jump through the legal hoops and complete all the paperwork? What are the advantages and disadvantages of establishing paternity in Missouri?

Let's look at a few pros and cons.

According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, a few benefits include:

  • Custody or visitation -- Once you are legally named as the father, you obtain the right to seek custody and parenting time. Such regular, scheduled time with your child can give you the chance to develop a meaningful relationship with him or her and help make important decisions.
  • Health insurance coverage¬†-- Establishing paternity allows you to add your last name to your child's birth certificate, which is a necessary prerequisite for enrolling him or her in your health care plan.
  • Social Security benefits -- If you pass away or become disabled, a minor child can seek Social Security benefits in your name.

Of course, you should also be aware of the potential drawbacks of establishing paternity. One of the most significant is the requirement to contribute financially to your child's care. Such child support payments can add up.

Another potential disadvantage is the necessity to interact in some degree with the child's mother. If you share custody of your child, for instance, you will need to communicate with the mother to make various arrangements. If the relationship is not an amicable one, this may be a difficult thing to do.

A skilled family law attorney in Missouri can advise you about the pros and cons in more detail and help you make the choice that is best for you.

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