Many men are forced to file paternity lawsuits to prove they are the biological father of a child born out of wedlock. However, there might be other ways to establish your legal rights as a father.
Florida paternity laws provide specific guidelines to establish the paternity of a child and grant fathers’ rights. However, these laws can be confusing. The process of proving paternity can also be difficult to navigate without help from an experienced Orlando family law lawyer.
Why Is Establishing Paternity Important?
Paternity identifies the legal father of a child. When a child is born in the State of Florida, the mother has custody of the child under Florida law if there is no legal father listed on the birth certificate and absent a court order removing custody.
If a man is not listed on a child’s birth certificate, he has no legal right to make decisions for the child or enforce visitation. Therefore, the father does not have a right to participate in decisions about the child’s living arrangement, education, healthcare, religious upbringing, or extracurricular activities. When the mother refuses to acknowledge that a man is the biological father of her child, the alleged father must seek a court order establishing paternity to enforce parental rights.
Establishing paternity is also important for the child and the mother. When an alleged father denies paternity, the mother can petition the court for an order identifying the man as the child’s biological father.
Determining paternity allows the mother to seek child support from the father. However, it also means that the child has inheritance rights and other benefits only available to a biological or legally adopted child, such as medical benefits, access to the father’s medical history information, and survivor’s benefits.
How Can I Establish Paternity and Parental Rights in Florida?
There are several ways for parents to establish paternity for children born in Florida. Ways that a man is recognized as the legal father of a child include:
Married At the Time of Birth
If the parties are married at the time of the child’s birth, the spouses are presumed to be the child’s legal parents. Furthermore, if parents get married after the birth of their child, the man can be listed as the legal father on the child’s birth certificate. However, the parties must provide documentation to the state to amend the child’s birth certificate.
Complete an Acknowledgment of Paternity
The parties may complete an Acknowledgment of Paternity and file the form with the Florida Office of Vital Statistics. The parties must sign the form in the presence of a Notary Public or two witnesses.
However, a mother and an alleged father can only use this form to establish paternity if the mother was not married when the child was born. The acknowledgment can be revoked by either parent within 60 days of signing the document unless there has been a court hearing regarding the matter.
File a Paternity Lawsuit
If the mother or alleged father dispute paternity, either person may file a paternity lawsuit. The lawsuit petitions the court for genetic testing to determine paternity.
DNA testing is considered to be 99.99% accurate in identifying the biological parents of a child. Because of the accuracy level, DNA testing is accepted by Florida courts as evidence of paternity.
The parents and the child must submit a DNA sample for testing. The parties may use a state facility for testing or choose an independent third-party lab to conduct the DNA test.
Once the court receives test results indicating the man is the child’s biological father, the court enters a paternity order naming him the legal father. The man’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate to reflect that he is the child’s biological father.
At that time, the parties may petition the court regarding child custody, child support, and parenting time. If the parties cannot agree to the terms for custody and visitation, the court will schedule a formal hearing to resolve the dispute.
How Long Does an Alleged Father Have To File a Paternity Lawsuit in Florida?
Unfortunately, a man might not become aware that he has fathered a child until many years after the child’s birth. This situation might occur when the mother is married to another man, the parties were not involved in a relationship, or the parties separated before the man realized the woman was pregnant.
Therefore, Florida laws allow a man to file a paternity lawsuit until a child is 18 years old. While it can be uncomfortable to learn that you have a child when the child is a teenager, you have a right to be a part of their life. However, the child’s best interest is the primary concern when determining custody and parenting time.
Establishing paternity might not result in joint custody or extensive visitation immediately upon obtaining a paternity order. There could be complicated and sensitive issues to consider. Therefore, you want to hire an experienced Orlando family law attorney to represent you in the paternity action to address custody, child support, and child visitation issues.
What Happens If I Dispute Paternity?
There could be situations in which an alleged father disputes paternity. Only biological and legal parents are responsible for the financial support of their children. Most men dispute paternity to avoid paying child support when they believe they might not be the biological father of a child.
A man might doubt whether he is the father if he is not in a committed relationship with the child’s mother. Doubt about paternity could arise if the man believes the mother was having sexual relations with multiple men.
If you believe a child is not your biological child, you have the right to dispute paternity. These disputes are often alleged in child support cases.
Your lawyer will file a motion with the court requesting genetic testing to confirm paternity. If the paternity test confirms you are not the child’s father, you would not be legally required to pay child support.
Call Our Law Office To Schedule a Free Consultation With an Orlando Paternity Lawyer
We frequently fight for the rights of fathers to be a part of their children’s lives. Contact or call our office at (407) 831-0203 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Orlando from Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC. We stand up for Florida fathers seeking child custody and visitation rights.