If you are the father of a child, knowing you are the child’s father is not the same as legally establishing paternity of the child. Likewise, simply putting the father’s name on a birth certificate for a child born out of wedlock is not sufficient to make a man the child’s legal father. Paternity is a legal determination that is necessary for a father to establish legal rights to a child and for a mother to request financial support for the child. When the parents of a child are married at the time the child is born, paternity is presumptively established by virtue of the fact that the couple is married. When a child is born out of wedlock, however, paternity must be established in one of two ways in the states of Kansas and Missouri. The easiest way to establish paternity is for the parents to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form. A VAP form can be executed at the hospital at the time of birth or is available from local government agencies or a doctor’s office. The second way is to go through the appropriate court and have a judge establish paternity, usually following a DNA test. A judicial paternity action can be brought by a child, a mother, a putative (alleged) father, or the government if the mother is receiving government assistance. Whether you are the mother or father of a child for whom paternity has yet to be established, it is in your best interest — and the child’s — to consult with an experienced family law attorney about establishing paternity as soon as possible.