On July 7, 2009, Governor Jay Nixon signed into law senate bill number 141, which modifies Missouri’s paternity laws, effective August 28, 2009. The new law revises sections 210.826, and 210.828 and adds a new section 210.854, which will now allow men who have been declared the father of a child by a court to petition to set aside the judgment and obtain relief from child support obligations when DNA testing shows that they are not the biological father, if filed within certain time limits.  

The provisions of the new paternity law are summarized as follows:

In an action to determine paternity of a child, a notification form shall be attached to the delivery of the petition through service of process. The notification form shall prominently state in bold face type as follows: "Important Notice. If you do not respond to this action, a judgment of paternity may be entered against you and you may be ordered to pay child support, medical support or reimburse someone for support previously paid for the child. You have the right to contest that you are the father of the named child and you have the right to request genetic testing to prove whether or not you are the father."

The act also provides that a person may file a petition to challenge entry of a judgment of paternity and support upon filing an affidavit stating that evidence exists which was not considered before entry of judgment. Such petition shall also include either an allegation that genetic testing was conducted within the past 90 days using DNA methodology, was performed by an expert, and that the test results indicate the petitioner is not the child’s father or a request to the court for an order of genetic paternity testing using DNA methodology. The petition to set aside the judgment may be filed at any time prior to December 31, 2011. After that, the petition shall be filed within two years of the entry of the original judgment of paternity and/or support, whichever occurs later.

The court, after a hearing where all interested parties have been given an opportunity to present evidence and be heard and upon a finding of probable cause to believe the testing may result in a determination of non-paternity, shall order the relevant parties to submit to genetic paternity testing. The petitioner shall pay for the costs of testing.

The court shall grant relief, unless the court makes written findings of fact and conclusions of law that it is not in the best interest of the parties to do so, and 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 this act shall not apply to grant relief to the parent of any adopted child nor shall such provisions be construed to create a cause of action to recover child support or state debt previously paid under court order. The petitioner shall not have a right for reimbursement of any monies paid previously under said order.

Beginning in 2010, the family support division shall track and report to the general assembly the number of cases known to the division in which a court, within the calendar year, set aside a previous judgment of paternity and support under the provisions of this act.

The entire text of the bill can be read here.