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Published On: Fri, Jun 15th, 2018

How is Paternity Established in the State of Florida?

In Florida, when a child is born, the law assumes the child’s father is the mother’s husband. When a child is born out of wedlock, paternity must be established voluntarily or by a court order.

Paternity in Florida

If both parents agree on who the child’s father is, they can sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity form to establish paternity. When both parties sign this legal document, they are acknowledging under oath that the man signing the form is the child’s biological father and that all the information is accurate. The acknowledgment becomes final after 60 days. If either parent wants the document revoked, they must prove that the form was signed due to fraud or the use of extreme force.  

If a voluntary acknowledgment is not an option, either the mother or the man who believed he is the father may establish paternity through a court order. Under Florida law, the alleged father, the child through a legal representative, or the Florida Department of child services can start the court process.  If a government agency establishes paternity, they can only make child support orders. For other requests, like custody rights, the mother or alleged father must seek paternal relief in court.

Florida currently has a system of circuit courts that handle family court cases. Each circuit court covers multiple counties and grants judges the authority to make decisions of paternity cases. Paternity cases should start in the circuit court covering the county where either the mother or alleged father resides. The court will then order a genetic test to be taken by the mother, child, and putative father.  

Whenever a petition to determine paternity is filed in court, the judge can also grant orders for child support, child custody, visitation time, health insurance for the child, and payment of either party’s court and attorney fees. If the judge does not make any order regarding child custody and visitation rights, Florida law assumes that the mother has sole decision-making authority and all of the parenting time.

Paternity cases can start before the child is born, but the final hearing must be held after the child’s birth.

The Benefits to Establishing Paternity

Establishing paternity is beneficial to the child involved for many reasons. For starters, single mothers who successfully establish paternity are entitled to child support from the child’s father. The alleged father may also have health insurance or government benefits that would cover the child. Moreover, the child would also be able to inherit from the father’s estate.

The child may also benefit from having a father’s involvement. Fathers who want to have a healthy relationship with their child can establish paternity to get their fair share of parenting time. A court order can grant a father joint decision-making authority and equal voice in important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

Starting Your Case

Establishing paternity can be an excellent opportunity for parents of all backgrounds. Not only is it the first step in protecting parenting rights, but it can contribute significantly to the well-being of the child involved. If you need help establishing paternity in Florida, an experienced family law attorney can inform you of all of your options and advise you on the best course of action. Get the help you need and get justice for you and your family.

Author: Shirley Wilson

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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