Missouri Men Now Have the Right to Genetic Testing in Paternity Cases
By Robert Franklin, Esq. Jul 10, 2009
The latest development in a matter we've reported on before is here (Kansas City.com, 7/7/09). The governor of Missouri has signed into law a bill that allows men two years after they've been adjudicated to be a child's father to contest the matter in court via genetic testing.
If a test proves the man is not the biological father, he would be excused from previous child-support debt and would have criminal nonsupport convictions removed from his record, under the new Missouri law that takes effect Aug. 28.
The law is obviously a step in the right direction. It gives men some actual control over obligations that courts so often place on them without their knowledge or consent. According to the article, paternity in Missouri was often established by a man's failure to respond to a paternity suit filed by a woman. As we've seen before, his failure to respond, whether due to his own negligence or the fact that he didn't receive notice of the suit, resulted in a default judgment being taken against him. That meant 18 years of child support for a child that may or may not have been his, with no opportunity to establish the truth.
That in turn meant that, if the child were not his, another man shirked his responsibility toward the child. It also encouraged mothers to lie about who the father was and where he was. Since lying by women in paternity or divorce cases about either or both of those matters is rarely punished, the law tended to encourage misrepresentation.
That has now changed in Missouri. It's a small step, but it gives men and putative fathers more power in family courts.