Paternity can be a potentially contentious issue in any child support or custody case. Although one or both parents may know the father of the child, this may not be enough to prove paternity in a court of law. Laws regarding establishing paternity in Florida can be tricky, and you may wish to consult with a qualified attorney, such as those at the Law Offices of Justin McMurray, P.C. In the meantime, here are a few things you should know about paternity law in Florida.
Why Establish Paternity
Establishing paternity provides the child, mother and father with important legal rights and obligations. For the child, paternity provides knowledge of who the biological father is. This not only allows the child's mother or guardian to collect child support on their behalf, it also provides a valuable genetic and family background. For the father, establishing paternity allows you to seek custody or a co-parenting arrangement, allowing the father to have a relationship with their child.
Establishing Paternity at Birth
Under Florida law, paternity can be established at birth in two ways. First, if the parents of the child are married at the time of birth, paternity is automatically presumed for the spouse of the mother. If the parents are not married, paternity can be established at the hospital at the time of birth by the unmarried father signing the birth certificate.
Establishing Paternity Voluntarily or by Legitimization
If the parents are not married at the time of the child's birth, and the father does not sign the birth certificate at the hospital, paternity may be established later voluntarily or by legitimization. Establishing paternity by legitimization occurs at the time the parents of the child become married. During the marriage license application process, the father can claim, or legitimize, their child.
In order to voluntarily establish paternity if the parents are not married, both parents may sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity form, which is then filed with the Florida Health Department and the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics. Signing this form will require a notary and witnesses. It is important to note that this route to establishing paternity cannot be taken if the mother was married at the time of the child's birth.
Establishing Paternity by Order
As a final resort in Florida, you may seek to establish paternity by order. Either the mother or the father may request the order. Establishing paternity by order puts in motion one of several legal court proceedings. If the father, the mother and the child all agree, then genetic testing can be done and paternity established once the results are in. If one or more of the parties do not agree to voluntary genetic testing, a civil case may be filed. In this case, a judge will order genetic testing to occur.
Establishing paternity by order can be a complicated matter involving multiple legal filings and potentially a civil court case. You should feel free to approach an attorney for a free initial consultation to discuss the particularities of your paternity case.