Why Establishing Paternity Matters
Establishing Paternity in Florida
According to the CDC, about 40% of children are born to unmarried women. In Florida, the mother of a child born outside of marriage is the natural guardian with sole legal rights in respect to the child unless you prove paternity.
The definition of paternity according to Merriam-Webster is the “quality or state of being a father.” That can be pretty ambiguous, and what constitutes paternity varies from state to state. In Florida, legal fatherhood is not necessarily the same as biological fatherhood. If a child is born in wedlock, that child is automatically considered the child of the man the mother is married to. Unless the biological father’s paternity is established, he has no rights or obligations to the child.
How do you establish paternity in Florida courts? There are a couple options:
- Voluntarily acknowledge paternity at or shortly after birth. If both parties agree, you will sign an official acknowledgment of paternity.
- Get an administrative or judicial order that utilizes genetic testing to your confirm paternity claim.
Father’s Rights after Proving Paternity in Florida
Until a father proves his paternity to a child, he has no legal rights to guardianship or obligation to provide child support. In order to establish paternity, the mother or father needs to file a Petition to Establish Paternity. To do this, the petitioner must be a resident of Florida a minimum of 6 months prior.
Once paternity is established, you and your custody attorney can determine the right parenting plan for you, including how to navigate:
- Child support
- Health & medical coverage
- Visitation rights
- Time sharing
What happens if you receive a Notice of Proceeding to Establish Administrative Support order with a child support request?
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. The best way to straighten out any child support issues is to contact a child custody lawyer to help you navigate the legal proceedings.
What happens if you have a child with a married woman and the couple claims that the child is a product of the marriage?
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. Because of the difficult nature of Florida custody laws, legal advice from a qualified attorney is strongly advised.
Why Should You Establish Paternity?
If you are the father, proving your paternity will give you the assurance that you will be able to help raise your child, no matter the status of your relationship with the mother. If you are the mother, proving who the child’s father is will benefit both the child’s life and your by ensuring you receive adequate child support, both financially and emotionally.
But the benefits for the child are just as important as they are for both parents. According to a study from The University of Florida titled “The Hidden Benefits of Being an Involved Father,” children who know who are raised by both parents:
- Are less likely to drop out of school
- Have decreased problem behaviors
- Have more advanced social and language skills
- Have an increase in positive characteristics including empathy, self-esteem and self-control
If you’re ready to move forward with your paternity case, the experienced and skilled family law experts at LaFrance Family Law care about asserting and protecting your parental rights.