Paternity in Florida
We all can visualize that cute picture. The newborn on a Facebook profile, the proud parents, goofing off and smiling in the selfie. The law rarely questions who that child’s father is. A child born to properly wedded parents will know his father. But, the situation changes when an unmarried woman has a baby. It becomes necessary to establish paternity. It has benefits for both the father and the baby.
The Root of All Paternity Issues
According to the law, whoever the man and woman is married to when a baby is born, is considered to be the legal father of the child. It does not matter if the child is his, or not. If a biological father wants to become the legal father of a child, outside of marriage, he has to bring a paternity action.
Why is it Important to Establish Paternity?
When a father takes an active role in a child’s life, the children benefit – not only economically, but also emotionally and socially. More motivation to establish paternity is:
Every child has the right to know who his/her father is.
- It is essential for estate planning purposes.
- A child can inherit from his/her father.
- A child may be eligible to receive part of veteran’s benefits, health- or life insurance and child support from a legal father.
- Only a legal father can have a say in a child’s life. Without paternity being proven, a mother can move to another state or country, and the father can’t stop her. He has no legal rights to the child.
- Only a legal father has the right to spend time with a child (and can get a court order to do so.)
- It is vital for a child to know a father’s (and his family’s) health history. He/she might have issues too.
A Father’s Rights and Obligations
According to Florida law Chapter 742, having paternity established gives a father the right to:
- Visiting and spending time with his biological children. It may include weeknights, weekends and holidays
- Make decisions regarding his children’s general care, religious upbringing, and education
- Provide financially for the child
Who Can File a Paternity Action?
The paternity action can be initiated by:
- Any pregnant woman or a woman with a child
- Any man who thinks he is the father of a child
A child can also bring proceedings if he/she is unsure who his/her father is.
How to Establish Paternity
There are four ways that paternity can be established under Florida law.
Will You Marry Me?
The child’s father and mother can get married after the birth of the child. In the eyes of the law, the husband is now presumed to be the legal father of the child.
Sign Here, Please
The parents can sign an “acknowledgment of paternity” right after the child is born or soon thereafter. It is a document wherein both parents concede and swear under oath that the man is the child’s legal father. The report becomes final after 60 days and cannot be revoked. This acknowledgment gives the father visitation rights, the right to have a relationship with the child and the obligation to help provide for the child.
But What if the Issue is Contested?
A Paternity Judgment
Should the issue be contested, the parties can turn to the Circuit Court of Florida to help them establish paternity. The mother can be unwilling to indicate the father or the father may contest his involvement. In both cases, the other party can get a court order and eventually get DNA testing done to prove paternity.
The rest of the proceedings are much the same as in a divorce settlement. Included in such a court judgment regarding paternity is a parenting plan, setting out what each parent is responsible for. If the father does not want to give his corporation, it is assumed that the mother is the sole decision maker and has all of the parenting time.
Court proceedings can be circumvented, and genetic testing can be done privately. The Florida Department of Revenue will use the positive test results as proof and alter the child’s birth certificate to show the father’s name. This administrative order has the same authority as a court-issued paternity judgment.
A father’s influence in a child’s life cannot be underestimated. Modern men know this, and most of them want to spend time with their children and have a say in their lives. Paternity has to be proven for this to happen legally.
If you need a professional to help you prepare the appropriate documents with the court and assist you in getting the proper testing to determine paternity or not – let us help.