Knowing your paternity rights in Florida is an important step in gaining visitation or custody rights and having a say in decisions involving your child. If you don’t know your rights, you might end up paying child support for a child that you aren’t even allowed to have a relationship with.
Paternity disputes often arise when one parent doesn’t want the other to have parental rights, when a parent is trying to avoid responsibility for a child, or when an individual doesn’t want to take responsibility for a child. In Florida, a child who is born to an unmarried mother does not have a legal father in the eyes of the law. If a father wants to establish paternity, it must be done in one of five ways:
If a woman is married when she has the child, her husband is the child’s legal father—even if the mother doesn’t list her husband’s name on the birth certificate. Testing is not needed to establish paternity in this case.
This form can be signed if both parents agree on the child’s paternity and it becomes final 60 days after being signed. The only way to reverse this form is by proving that the father was forced to sign or that the signature is fraudulent. After the form is final, it will only give limited paternity rights to the father, but will require him to provide financial support for the child until he or she is a legal adult.
Genetic testing can be used to verify who the child’s biological father is. Free genetic testing is available through the Florida Department of Revenue. This method works well if the mother and father provide full cooperation, but if either party doesn’t want to go through with the DNA test, a judge may need to get involved.
If either parent is unwilling to acknowledge paternity, the other parent can sue to establish paternity. This will usually result in a court order asking the refusing parent to appear in court along with the child and the other party. The judge may order genetic testing.
This happens when the parents get married to each other after the birth of the child and then update the child’s birth record to name the husband as the legal father.
It’s important to understand that although you might be named the legal father of the child, this doesn’t mean that you have full rights. It only means that you will responsible for providing financial support to the child.
Also important to note, after signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity, it is extremely difficult to try to remove yourself as the legal father of the child once the 60-day time frame has passed, unless you can prove that you were forced to sign or that the form was signed fraudulently. If that is the case, then you may be able to request a DNA test to prove you are not the father.
If you are unable to prove that you are not the father, you might be legally named as the child’s father and stuck making child support payments, but not have any actual custody or visitation rights.
Many fathers who have signed an acknowledgment of paternity form might be in for a rude awakening when they try to see their child or make decisions about the child’s education and upbringing, only to be told that the acknowledgment of paternity form only guarantees that they have to financially support the child, not that they have full rights. The court isn’t concerned with your relationship with the child. It is only the court’s job to make sure that the child is safe and provided for financially. In order to get additional rights, you should consult with an attorney and file a petition with the court.
You can obtain the necessary paperwork to file a petition for paternity rights in Florida on the Florida Courts website. You should have a good understanding of all the terms used in the paperwork you are filing. If you are unsure of how to proceed after reading through the paperwork, you should consult with an attorney.
If you are trying to establish paternity rights in Florida or are in the middle of a paternity dispute, an attorney can help you understand your rights and your options. The family law attorneys at Roy & Associates, P.A., have experience in helping parents resolve disputes and helping fathers gain the parental rights they deserve. Feel free to contact us at 561-729-0095 or submit an inquiry to our attorneys online.
The article above is intended for education purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact an attorney regarding your situation.