Why should paternity be established in Florida?
When a couple is legally married in Florida, the husband is presumed in legal terms to be the father of any children born out of that union. But, when the parents are not married, fatherhood must be established by taking the correct steps. Paternity need not be ascertained solely for the reason of one parent collecting child support payments. There are other benefits too in knowing who a child’s father is.
Biological father vs. legal father
It is important to understand the distinction between the legal – and the biological father of a child, as this is the root of all paternity issues.
If a mother marries a man prior to the birth of a child and that man is not the biological father of the child, he becomes the legal father after the child is born.
The other side of the coin is also true: If the wife was having an affair during the marriage, the husband is still the legal father of the child, even it is not his biological child.
The only way a biological father can become a legal father, outside of marriage, is to bring a paternity action. (Even so, a judge can still decide that it is in the best interest of the child that the non-biological father stays the legal father of the child.)
Why should paternity be established?
- First, any child should know who his or her father is – simply because every child has the right to know who his/ her biological father is. His name can be placed on a birth certificate.
- A child can inherit from his father’s estate.
- According to Florida law, a father can only have a say in a child’s life if paternity has been proven. He can, for instance, not legally stop the mother moving to another town or state, without a paternity order, as he got no legal rights to the child.
- With paternity being proven, a father can get a court order for shared time with a child.
- Health history is getting increasingly important in modern medicine. A child can benefit by knowing what his/her biological father’s health issues are and also get information on his family’s medical history.
- The child may have the right to receive health insurance, life insurance, veterans’ benefits or child support from the father, but without paternity being proven, he/she can’t tap into that advantage.
- Paternity is imperative for estate planning purposes.
How to do it?
Under Florida law, there are a number of ways that an unmarried couple can use to establish paternity.
- Both parties can sign an acknowledgment of paternity. This can be done right after the child is born, at the hospital, or at a later date.
In this document, both parents acknowledge that the man is the child’s legal father and they swear under oath that it is true. After 60 days, the document becomes final and it cannot be revoked. This form gives the father rights of visitation, the responsibility to help provide for the child, and the right of having a relationship with the child.
- A paternity judgment in the Circuit Court of Florida is the best way to establish paternity if the issue is contested. Such a judgment goes hand-in-hand with a parenting plan, setting out what the father can and cannot do and it describes his responsibilities.
Without a parenting plan, Florida law assumes the mother has all of the parenting time and is the sole decision-maker. Paternity is established here by genetic testing.
- A mother and father can get married after the birth of a child. This gives legitimation to the child and the husband is now presumed to be the father of the child.
- Genetic testing can also be done privately and circumvent court. Should the test results affirm that the man is the biological father, The Florida Department of Revenue will place the man’s name of the child’s birth certificate. The Administrative order of Paternity issued by the Florida DOR has the same authority as a paternity judgment issued by the court.
Fathers are important. Many men are becoming aware of this and they want to spend time with their biological children and have a say in their health care, education and religious upbringing.
Should the parents not be on good terms, the only way that a dad can get an equal voice in his children’s lives is to establish his paternity.
A mom might also need to prove paternity in order to get support from her children’s biological father.
The process is relatively straightforward, but it can be difficult to get the presumed father to agree to paternity testing. If you feel overwhelmed, Kimberly Schultz is the perfect family law attorney to help you. Please contact our office today to arrange for a free consultation.