Paternity

A KNOWLEDGEABLE PATERNITY ATTORNEY WHO PROTECTS YOUR BEST INTEREST

When a disagreement or dispute arises concerning paternity in Florida, the rights and obligations of fatherhood are usually established through a paternity action filed in a Florida family law court. A family court judge has the authority to make decisions involving paternity cases.  A paternity action is sometimes necessary to legally establish that a man is the father of a child. Establishing paternity can be extremely helpful in cases where parents were never married.  The Florida public policy regarding paternity is that a child is entitled to child support from both parents.

The practice of paternity law is often extremely complex. Establishing or disestablishing paternity can be a time-consuming process that involves filing the proper paperwork and diligently seeking the time-sharing or child support that you are entitled to.  The Atherley Law Firm is here to evaluate your paternity case, guide you through the paternity process, advocate on your behalf, and help you understand and protect your legal rights.

UNDERSTANDING PATERNITY RIGHTS

Under Florida Law, a biological father and legal father are different.  Paternity is legal fatherhood.  Florida courts recognize the legal father as the child’s father.  If the mother is married when the child is born, the law assumes her husband is the legal father of her child, even if he is not the biological father.  If the mother is not married when the child is born, the child does not have a legal father and paternity must be established voluntarily or through a court order.  The biological father may be established as the legal father through a paternity action.

PURPOSE OF ESTABLISHING PATERNITY RIGHTS

Men and women often file paternity petitions for the purpose of establishing child support and having a child time-sharing agreement in place. Mothers and fathers may seek to establish paternity to receive the child support necessary to ensure the proper care of the child.  Fathers may seek to establish paternity to gain full rights as the child’s legal father and to ensure proper visitation and time-sharing with their child.  In some cases where doubt exists on either side as to the identity of the child’s biological father, paternity is the best way to establish whether the alleged father is or is not the father and thus should or should not be held financially responsible as the child’s legal father.

BENEFITS OF ESTABLISHING PATERNITY

The process of establishing or disestablishing paternity can be overwhelming, confusing and emotionally draining. A paternity action entitles a man to equal consideration under the law for the entry of a court order of shared parental responsibility, parenting plan, and timesharing schedule. When paternity is officially established, both parents have the right to child support, to obtain a court order for time-sharing or visitation, and to have a say in legal decisions concerning the child’s well being. Despite the complicated nature, in many cases undertaking and completing the paternity establishment process can prove to be beneficial for everyone involved, and most importantly – the child.  Legally identifying a child’s father gives the child certain legal rights and privileges.

Here are some of the benefits of establishing paternity to consider:

  • FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM BOTH PARENTS
  • HEALTH AND LIFE INSURANCE BENEFITS FROM PARENTS
  • ACCESS TO FATHER’S MEDICAL HISTORY INFORMATION
  • CHILD’S RIGHT TO SOCIAL SECURITY & MILITARY BENEFITS
  • ACCESS TO SURVIVOR’S BENEFITS AND RIGHTS OF INHERITANCE
  • NAME WILL BE ADDED TO BIRTH CERTIFICATE & CHILD WILL BE AWARE OF THE IDENTITY OF FATHER
  • FATHER’S INVOLVEMENT IN CHILD-REARING

PROCESS TO ESTABLISH PATERNITY

In Florida, paternity can be legally established in several ways.  Under Florida law, the child’s mother, alleged father, legal representative of the child, or the Florida Department of Revenue can initiate the paternity process.

  • VOLUTARY ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF PATERNITY:  A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or affidavit acknowledging paternity is notarized, witnessed by two individuals, signed by mother and father, and filed with the court. After 60 days, neither parent can revoke the acknowledgment. The acknowledgment of paternity may be only challenged in court on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake.
  • AFFIDAVIT ACKNOWLEDGING PATERNITY:  An acknowledgment of paternity signed by both parties or a stipulation of paternity executed by both parties and filed with the court agreeing that father is the biological father of the child and will be responsible for the financial and medical support of the child until the child reaches the age of 18.
  • GENETIC TESTING:  Genetic testing is commonly referred to as DNA or scientific testing and is used frequently to determine paternity.  Generally, skin cells are collected from swabbing the inside of the mouths of the child, mother, and alleged father.
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER:  Administrative action or proceeding often established through the Florida Department of Revenue to order genetic testing, establish paternity, and establish an administrative child support order. After genetic testing scientifically proves who is the father of a child, the Department of Revenue will issue an administrative paternity order.
  • COURT ORDER:  The court looks at the facts and issues concerning paternity and may issue a judicial paternity order if paternity is found.  A judge will generally enter the final judgment of paternity.
  • LEGITIMATION:  Legitimation occurs when the mother and father of the child get married to one another after the child is born and update the child’s birth records with the Florida Office of Vital Statistics reflecting the update to marriage status.

If a government agency such as the Department of Revenue issues an administrative order to establish paternity, usually an administrative order will be created regarding child support.  However, the Department of Revenue is not able to make any custody determinations or arrangements, thus, requests for a parenting schedule or time-sharing agreements must be made separately through the courts.

It is important to note that the signing of a birth certificate and the putative father registry alone do not establish paternity. Even signing an affidavit of paternity by itself will not establish a time-sharing agreement.

DISESTABLISHMENT OF PATERNITY

The disestablishment of paternity is a legal process that allows a man to seek an order or judgment canceling a previously allowed claim of paternity, or terminating a child support obligation when the male is not the biological father of the child. A petition disestablishing paternity must be served on the mother or legal guardian of the child.  If the Florida Department of Revenue is already involved in the case for child support obligations and the petition was established administratively without a court order, the Department of Revenue must also be served in the circuit where the child support obligation exists. Duties to pay child support and other legal obligations for the child will not be suspended while the petition is pending unless good cause has been shown.  If the disestablishment of paternity is granted, relief will be given for future child support payments, termination of parental rights, custody, and visitation rights.

In some situations a court will not disestablish an existing paternity determination.  A court will not approve the disestablishment of paternity if a man, after learning he is not the father of the child voluntarily assumed parental obligation and married the mother, acknowledged paternity of the child in a sworn statement, consented to be named as the child’s biological father on the child’s birth certificate, signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, or ignored a court order or written notice to submit to scientific genetic testing.

MEET WITH A DEDICATED CENTRAL FLORIDA FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY

To learn more about your rights related to the establishment or disestablishment of paternity, speak with a skilled paternity lawyer at Atherley Law Firm. We are here to guide you through your paternity case and answer any questions you may have. From our office located in downtown Orlando we serve clients throughout Orange and Osceola counties.  To get started, please call us today at (407) 459-7046, contact us online, or schedule your own consultation.

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