Updated: Sep 6
The family law courts are the addressing authority for paternity related issues in Florida. These include custody, legal versus biological fatherhood, visitation and more.
If you are a resident of Florida and facing any matter related to paternity, you are in the right place. This post will give you an overview of the basic paternity issues. You can also contact our experienced family law attorney for legal advice on your specific circumstances.
Legal vs. Biological Paternity
Legal paternity right refers to a person who has legal responsibilities and rights to and over a child, irrespective of being a biological father or not. A biological father can become a child’s legal father through paternity action.
What if a court in Florida found the legal father not to be the biological father? In this case, it will be up to the judge’s discretion to decide whether it is in the child’s best interest to stay with the non-biological father or grant custody to a biological father.
What are Paternity Rights?
In simple terms, paternity rights are the rights of a father. These can address a man’s rights and responsibilities to support a child, visitation rights, and custody. You can file an action in the family court for the law to determine the parenting plan, custody and other associated aspects of taking care of your child.
How Does the State of Florida Establish Paternity?
In the state of Florida, if a mother gives birth to a child after marriage, the law automatically assumes the husband to be the father of the child. However, if a mother is unmarried at the time of childbirth, the law requires you to establish paternity. This can be a voluntary act or done via court order. If unmarried, the mother is the natural guardian of a child. A guardian is someone to whom the law has entrusted the custody and control of another person. The unwed mother has legal custody of the child and having the father’s name on the birth certificate does not grant him any rights. Unwed parents may voluntarily seek the assistance of the Florida Supreme Court Family Mediator in going through the process.
What if the Mother Marries the Father of the Child after Child’s Birth?
If the mother marries the child’s father after childbirth, the husband will become a legal father. However, this does not add a husband’s name automatically on a birth certificate. For this, both parents must complete the “Affirmation of Common Child Born in Florida” known as form DH-743A. In case of no voluntary acknowledgement, either a man who believes to have fathered the child or the mother herself can approach the court to establish paternity.
Importance of Establishing Paternity in Florida
If a father leaves the mother before or after the baby’s birth, establishing paternity can help the mother seek child support from the father. Furthermore, if the alleged father has health insurance, it may also benefit the child.
Apart from the benefits of a father’s involvement in a child’s life, a child may also be eligible to receive government benefits, especially if the father is a veteran or a disabled person. Establishing paternity also helps the child inherit his father’s estate. If the father and mother of a child are not on good terms, the father can file for paternity rights to gain the authority to make a joint decision about the child’s life. This gives both father and mother an equal voice regarding their child’s education, religious upbringing, education, and other major issues.
However, as a father, you do not automatically get these rights. You must obtain them through court’s order after establishing paternity in Florida.
How to Initiate a Paternity Case in Florida?
Florida has a circuit courts system that covers all family law cases. Each of these circuit courts covers various counties. Most importantly, the family court judge in Florida has full authority to give a verdict on paternity cases.
A father or mother can start a paternity case in a court within their county. The court or judge may order a genetic test for the alleged father, mother and child. Upon successfully establishing paternity, they will make an order on the following.
· Child support
· Parenting time
· Child’s health insurance
· Visitation rights
· Who is the decision-making authority for the child?
What if the judge does not give any orders from decision making or parenting time? in this case, the law in Florida will automatically assume that the mother of the child is the sole decision-making authority and gets the entire parenting time.
You may contact TriDialogue Mediation at 772-226-7112 or 561-714-1194 if you think mediation is right for you.