Establishing Paternity in South Florida
Paternity is defined as the “legal fatherhood of a child”. If both parents are married at the time of their child’s birth, the husband is assumed to automatically have paternity over the child and no medical tests are required. Instead, both parents sign a Paternity Acknowledgement form defining the legal fatherhood of the child.
In circumstances where a child is born out of wedlock and the biological father is unknown (or unclear), the assumed father may sign a “Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form.” This allows another party to make a claim of paternity within sixty days.
Paternity may be contested in some cases if the male spouse or some other party claims that paternity should reside in someone else. In those situations, a judge may order that a genetic test be performed to determine the actual father of a child. This test will be administered by a court approved testing agency and all parties (including the child) must be present and possess a valid form of identification. After collecting DNA from all parties, the child’s actual father will be determined. Results should be mailed to the mother and father within three weeks.
A paternity action may be brought by a male who believes he is the father of a child. If the genetic testing confirms that he is the biological father, the judge may establish that paternity resides in him instead of the assumed father. This can grant the biological father visitation rights or even child custody. If installed as the legal father, the petitioner may also be responsible for financial obligations like child support. It should be noted, however, that a judge may not grant paternity to the biological father if he or she believes that the interests of the child are better served by retaining the non-biological father as the legal parent. This decision can be overturned through appeal.
During the course of a paternity action, the courts may make the following determinations:
- Who is the legal father of a child, or possesses paternity
- Who will make decisions regarding the welfare and upbringing of the child
- The amount of time spent with either parent during the school year, holidays and special occasions
- Who will be financially responsible for providing health insurance, extracurricular expenses and other costs related to the child
- Whether the father’s name may be added to the child’s birth certificate
- Changing the child’s name to reflect parentage
- Whether a child can be claimed as a dependent for tax purposes
While many paternity cases can be relatively straightforward in nature, some cases can become extremely complicated. For petitioners without experience in the legal system, it is highly advisable to obtain the services of a well-qualified family law attorney.
A legal counselor can best explain the intricacies of Florida paternity law and help develop the most effective legal strategy for establishing paternity. For many fathers who desire to gain access to their biological children, the most expeditious method is hiring an attorney with expertise in paternity matters and pursuing legal fatherhood through the Florida courts.
Canty Law values family and provides a more personable approach to paternity legal help for Florida residents. To schedule a consultation for paternity or any other family law requirement, call 561-430-4188 or simply submit your request here on our website. We look forward to meeting you.