Why Establishing Paternity Matters
According to the CDC, about 40% of children are born to unmarried women. In Florida, the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian with sole legal rights in respect to the child unless paternity is established.
So, what is paternity? And how does it affect you as an unmarried father? The definition of paternity according to Merriam-Webster is the “quality or state of being a father.” In Florida, paternity is the court accepted legal fatherhood of a child above and beyond being the biological father. Unless the biological father who is not yet the “legal father” establishes his paternity, he has no rights or obligations to the child.
How do you establish paternity in the eyes of the Florida courts? There is the opportunity to voluntarily establish paternity at birth or after if both sides agree and then sign an acknowledgment of paternity. Paternity can also be established through an administrative or judicial order that utilizes genetic testing to confirm paternity.
So what happens if…
- You receive a Notice of Proceeding to Establish Administrative Support Order from the Florida Department of Revenue to request child support for a child.
– The Administrative Tribunal is in place to determine paternity as well as order you to pay child support. The Administrative Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to award you visitation, custody or any other important parental rights.
- You have a child with a woman who was and is married to another and they are claiming that the child is a product of the marriage and you have no parental rights in regards to the child.
– To protect the child, Florida law requires that every reasonable presumption be made in favor of legitimacy. This means that a child born during a marriage is presumed to be legitimate and the husband is believed to be the father. It can be more difficult to assert parental rights for the biological father in this situation, but not impossible.
Why Should You Establish Paternity?
By determining paternity early, you can avoid issues like the two examples above. Raising children can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Establishing paternity provides you with the knowledge that, in the eyes of the Florida courts, your child is not only biologically yours, but also legally – giving you equal rights and responsibilities.
By proving paternity, you have the assurance that you will be able to spend time with your child, no matter the status of your relationship with the mother. You are also an integral part of decision making for matters that involve your child, like health care and education. Aside from the benefit of having their father involved in a child’s life, establishing paternity can also entitle the child to health insurance or government benefits that the father receives.
Whether you need to establish paternity or have any family law concerns, the caring lawyers at LaFrance Law are experienced and skilled at asserting and protecting your parental rights.