Establishing paternity is a crucial step for unwed parents. It gives fathers parental rights and responsibilities. It also allows mothers to receive child support. More importantly, it gives the child the emotional and practical benefits of having a second parent.
But, it takes more than listing a father’s name on the birth certificate to establish paternity. Instead, establishing paternity requires a legal process through the courts. A father, mother, legal representative of the child, or a state agency can begin this process.
The establishment of paternity is a serious matter that has far-reaching consequences. The Orlando paternity attorneys at McMichen, Cinami & Demps skillfully and compassionately represent clients in paternity cases, as well as related matters such as child support and child custody. We represent the best interests of your child while protecting your rights as a parent.
Why Establishing Paternity Is Important
Establishing paternity is important because it is the first step towards gaining parental rights. Once established, the father has the right to custody and visitation. In Florida, this is also known as parental responsibility and time-sharing. He also gains the right to take part in important decisions about the child’s life.
But, establishing paternity is just as important for the child and their mother. Paternity allows the child to receive child support, as well as health insurance and government benefits. They are also able to inherit from the father’s estate upon his death.
Establishing paternity also has significant emotional benefits for all parties. The child can enjoy the benefits of having a relationship with both parents. The parents also benefit from involvement in the child’s upbringing.
Legal Versus Physical Custody
There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody.
Physical custody is the time the parent spends with the child. Legal custody is the right to make decisions about the child’s life.
If the mother is married when she gives birth, Florida law assumes that her husband is the child’s biological father. If the parents aren’t married, the mother has legal custody of the child. Thus, the father must establish paternity.
How To Establish Paternity In Florida
When a child is born out of wedlock in Florida, paternity can be established in several ways.
Marriage: Paternity is automatically established if the parents get married.
Mutual Acknowledgment: If both parents agree that the man is the biological father, the parents can sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” form and file it with the court. After the form is filed, there is a 60-day waiting period during which either parent can revoke their claim.
Once paternity is established, it can’t be revoked except for in special circumstances.
A third-party can also establish paternity. One way is during inheritance or other benefit proceedings. Another way is during an administrative proceeding by the Florida Department of Revenue.
What Happens After Paternity Is Established
Florida law requires all time-sharing parents to establish a parenting plan. The parenting plan outlines the details of the parents’ custody and visitation arrangement.
Ideally, the parents will work together to develop a parenting plan that works for the whole family. Once agreed upon, the parenting plan must be approved by the court before taking effect. If the parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan, or they fail to file a plan with the court, the court has the power to establish a plan for them.
Once established, a parenting plan is an enforceable legal document. Parents who violate a court-approved parenting plan can be subject to harsh penalties, including loss of custody.
In rare cases, a father may learn after establishing paternity that they are not the biological father of the child. Florida law allows for fathers in this situation to contest their paternity. The disestablishment of paternity terminates paternity and removes the duty to pay child support.
Though rare, disestablishment of paternity can be proven in cases where:
There is new paternity evidence
The father did not adopt the child
The child was not conceived by artificial insemination while the parents were married
The father has submitted proof via scientific tests that he is not the biological father
All child support payments are current
The child is under the age of 18 when the petition for disestablishment was filed, or
The legal father did not prevent the biological father from asserting his parental rights.
But, even when the above requirements are met, certain actions by the alleged father can cause the petition to be denied. Examples include marrying the mother and representing himself as the father or signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. If the petition is denied, the father seeking to contest paternity will have to continue paying child support.
Contact Us Today For Your Free Consultation
At the law offices of McMichen, Cinami & Demps, we specialize in family law cases. Our Orlando office provides legal services in all family law cases including child custody, child support, and divorce. With over 50 years of experience helping Orlando, Florida families, we have the unique ability to provide knowledgeable and effective representation.
Our family law attorneys in Orlando understand the stress and confusion of a paternity action and offer compassionate guidance throughout every stage of your case. If you are a Florida resident who wishes to establish paternity of a child, contact our experienced Orlando paternity lawyers today for your free consultation.