Under Missouri’s non-paternity law, effective August 28, 2009, a previous declaration of paternity can be overturned, or “set-aside” in circumstances where DNA testing proves that a presumed or legal father in not the biological father of a child.
Prior to the enactment of this law, once a Missouri court determined that a man was the biological father of a child, it was a conclusive order for all purposes, and only in the rarest of situations could that ruling be overturned. This would even include a decree of dissolution of marriage (divorce) where paternity was never even raised, litigated, or expressly ruled upon by the court.
However, now, under Missouri’s non-paternity law, a man who has been found to be the father of a child can have that order overturned, the child support obligation terminated, past due child support eliminated, and any criminal convictions for non-payment of child support expunged from their record. In other words, if you are concerned that you are paying child support for a child that is not yours, you may have a legal way to stop paying child support and get your child support obligations terminated.
An action to set aside an order of paternity is filed in the form of an original petition or a motion to modify, depending on the procedural history of the case. There must be evidence that exists which was not considered before the entry of the original judgment, and a DNA test must show conclusively that the man is not the father of the child. The DNA test must have been performed within 90 days of the filing of the petition/motion for non-paternity, or the court must order the parties to submit to DNA testing after the case is filed. The Petitioner is required to pay for the costs of the DNA testing.
The petition must be filed within two years of the entry of the original judgment of paternity and/or support. A Guardian Ad Litem must be appointed in all cases to represent the interests of the child.
If all requirements are met, the court will enter judgment setting aside the previous judgment of paternity and child support, including a previous acknowledgment of paternity, extinguish any existing child support arrearage, and order the Department of Health and Senior Services to modify the child's birth certificate accordingly upon a finding that the genetic test was properly conducted, accurate, and excludes the petitioner as the child's father.
In addition, any petitioner may apply for expungement of criminal nonsupport records to the court in which the petitioner pled guilty or was sentenced. Such expungement shall only apply to records for criminal nonsupport of a child or children for which the petitioner was found not to be the biological father.
The provisions of the non-paternity law do not apply to grant relief to the parent of any adopted child nor will such provisions be construed to create a cause of action to recover child support or state debt previously paid under court order. The petitioner does not have a right for reimbursement of any monies paid previously under said order.
For more information regarding establishing or contesting paternity in Missouri, contact experienced Kansas City family law attorney Mark A. Wortman.