Establishing paternity is important primarily for two reasons: either to avoid being held responsible for legal duties such as paying child support if you are not the biological father of a child, or proving that you are a child's biological father in order to assume responsibility for that child along with legal rights. As reputable paternity attorneys, we realize the importance of establishing paternity in situations such as legal separation, annulment, or divorce, as whether a child is the legitimate child of a man presumed to be the father can affect all involved.
While there are a variety of methods used to establish paternity, men who are uncertain of whether they are the biological father of a child should not sign any form, as it may result in legal responsibilities including child support. Should you learn at a later date that you are not actually a child/children's biological father, the process of "undoing" child support or other legal processes is quite complex.Establishing Paternity in Orlando and Throughout Florida
In the state of Florida, paternity may be established in one of five ways. These include:
Marriage. A husband is presumed to be the legal father of a child when a couple is married and has a child. At the time of delivery, paperwork is completed that establishes the husband as the child's father.
Legitimation. In a case where a mother and father marry after a child is born, the birth record may be updated by completion of an Acknowledgement of Paternity form which will be filed with state authorities, and by sending the Florida Office of Vital Statistics a certified copy of your marriage certificate.
Acknowledgement of paternity. When parents of a child are not married, the simplest method of establishing paternity is by signing a Paternity Acknowledgement DH-511 when at the hospital. You may also sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity DH-432 form at a later date if you do not sign forms at the hospital upon the child's birth. Both forms require a notary public or two witnesses.
Court order. If a father denies the paternity of a child or is uncooperative in matters involving a legal father such as child support, it may be necessary to attend a family court hearing; in some instances, genetic testing may be ordered to determine paternity.
Administrative order based on genetic testing. In the case of couples where both parties agree that the man is the biological father but feel a genetic test should be performed, the Florida Department of Revenue can assist you with this test.
Legal issues such as custody and visitation (referred to as parental time-sharing in Florida) and child support may be considered once paternity has been established.Legal Concerns Regarding Paternity
There are many situations in which paternity comes into question, particularly when a woman has engaged in sexual relations with more than one partner. Any one of the potential fathers may have an interest in learning whether the child is his biological child. Potential fathers (legally termed "putative" fathers) may request the court to establish paternity based first upon sworn statements and then through testimony regarding:
- The engagement of the mother in sexual relations with a man who is not the putative father, including a description of the circumstances in which the child was conceived
- During the same time period, the putative father did not have access to the mother of the child
- DNA testing, HLA markers, blood group, or other scientific proof demonstrating the likelihood that the putative father is genetically related to the child
In Florida, a birth certificate and/or hospital records are not sufficient in general to counteract the presumption of lawful paternity. Paternity may be assigned to a specific individual through an Order of Filiation, which must be successfully applied for through the court. Once paternity is assigned, the father may be responsible for paying child support and may also have visitation rights in most cases. In situations where a biological father lacks financial means or the true father is not known, the husband in a marriage may be determined responsible for support of the child by the court.Contact Adams & Luka Today Regarding Paternity Issues
As you can see, paternity is a complex and delicate issue. A woman may wish to have paternity tests performed in order to receive child support from the biological father of her child, or a man may wish to establish paternity so that he can obtain parental time-sharing rights and spend time with his child. Regardless of the reasons, it is critical that you work with a skilled and compassionate family law attorney in determining issues including paternity, custody, alimony or spousal support, visitation, and other issues often encountered in the process of divorce or unmarried parents who go their separate ways. We invited residents in Central Florida to contact us for exceptional legal guidance today at (407) 872-0307 or (352) 787-2101.