Florida Paternity Law: Knowing Your Rights
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Paternity issues in Florida are handled by Family Law courts; which includes legal versus biological fathers, visitation, custody, and more. With a family law attorney in Florida, you too can handle paternity issues.
Legal and Biological Paternity
A legal father is an individual who has legal rights and responsibilities over and to the child, regardless of whether he is the biological father. Biological fathers can become the legal father by way of a paternity action. If a paternity action is filed in a Florida Court and it is found that the legal father is not the biological father of a child, the judge will decide whether it is best for the child to remain with their non-biological father, or with their biological father.
In Florida, the law assumes that when a child is born to a married woman, the father is the husband. If she is unmarried when the child is born, paternity has to be established either by way of a court order or voluntarily. Legally speaking, having a name on a birth certificate does not establish paternity. Seeking the assistance of Florida legal services can help you determine your situation.
When a child is first born and if the parents are not married, paternity can be established in the hospital. After the child is born, paternity can be established voluntarily or with a court order. Unmarried parents can establish paternity of their child voluntarily at any point. What’s more, if the mother and father of a child decide to marry after the child is born, they can get a paternity test prior to getting their marriage license. If at any point during childhood, another man, not the husband, believes he is the father, he can file a paternity action in court. A family law attorney in Florida can assist you through any of the processes involved to establish paternity.
• Voluntary Acknowledgement
Alleged fathers and mothers can sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” form acknowledging that the man signing is the child's legal father. For 60 days after signing, either parent has the right to revoke it, proving that extreme force or fraud was used. After 60 days, it becomes legally binding.
• Court Order
In cases where the voluntary form is not signed, either the mother or the man who thinks he is the father, the child, or the Florida Department of Child Support Services can seek a court order. Should this happen, the court will order a genetic test for the mother, potential father, and child. That said, seeking this court order can be submitted before the birth of a child, but the test won’t be administered until after the child is born.
Importance of Paternity
It is important to establish paternity because child support orders can help single mothers raise their child, and alleged fathers might be able to provide health insurance benefits and other support to their child. Additionally, children may be entitled to certain government benefits from their father such as disability or military benefits. Finally, a child is entitled to estate inheritance from their father.
In other cases, men who want to remain an active part of their child’s life may need a paternity test as the foundation for additional court orders such as child custody and visitation rights. Issues like these tend to arise out of strained mother-father relationships, disagreements on the child’s religious upbringing, education, and when health care decisions are concerned. Court orders affecting any of the aforementioned cannot be obtained without first establishing paternity.
If a man believes he is not the father of a child, he can contest things like child support by first pursuing a paternity action.
The rights of a father, known as paternity rights, relate to custody, visitation, and support rights of the child. Actions can be filed in the appropriate court with the assistance of a family law lawyer in Florida that can guide you and assist you throughout the process. With paternity established, the courts can determine custody, parenting plans, child support, and more.
Paternity can become complicated very quickly. The necessity of a paternity test can be called into action in some cases, such as when the mother and father might be married after the child is conceived, or were married during conception but divorced before birth (notwithstanding whether they had help from a divorce lawyer in Florida). In other cases, complications arise because of the putative father registry, paternity actions, court orders, biological fathers filing paternity cases, sperm donor cases and even the disestablishment of paternity. Paternity cases too can cover a range of topics such as the establishment of child support, parenting plans, parental responsibility, child dependency for taxes, medical expenses, pregnancy expenses, birth certificates, and more.
It is advisable to consult a lawyer to ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities when dealing with paternity.