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8 Frequently Asked Questions About Establishing Paternity in Florida

Published at July 2, 2019 by administrator.

With more and more couples having children outside of marriage, establishing paternity has become increasingly important. When parents are in agreement, it’s fairly easy to resolve. But when there’s a dispute, you need to understand each parent’s rights, state-specific laws, and how to initiate a paternity action.

So, to help you navigate this issue, we’ve answered eight questions about establishing paternity in Florida that we hear most often from our clients. 

1. What are the benefits of paternity for a child?

In most cases, couples are concerned about paternity as it relates to child support and time sharing. However, by having the father’s name on their birth certificate, the child will also have access to the following rights and benefits from that parent:

  • Family medical history
  • Health or life insurance, if available
  • Social Security or veteran’s benefits, military allowances, and inheritances

Knowing the legal father gives each child the resources they deserve, so the state of Florida is committed to resolving the issue as it arises.

2. How do you establish paternity in Florida if the mother of the child is married? 

If the mother is married, her husband (at the time of birth) is the legal father of the child. You don’t have to do anything to establish paternity. The hospital will complete the paperwork. However, even when the married husband is not the biological father, he’s still considered the legal father according to Florida law. See question #7 below for more about disestablishing paternity.

3. How do you establish paternity in Florida if the mother of the child is unmarried?

If the mother of the child is unmarried, there are three ways of voluntarily establishing paternity in Florida.

Voluntary Acknowledgement at the Hospital

The child’s father can fill out and sign the Paternity Acknowledgment form provided by the hospital. Both parents must complete the form in the presence of a notary public. The man that signs this acknowledgment will be on the child’s birth certificate as the legal father.

Voluntary Acknowledgement (Up to Age 18)

If the parents don’t follow the steps above at the hospital, they can establish paternity by completing the Acknowledgment of Paternity form (DH-432). Both parents must fill out and sign this form in the presence of two witnesses or a notary public. This will change the birth certificate to add the legal father’s name. 

Through Marriage 

If the mother later marries the biological father, the husband becomes the legal father. However, the father’s name is not automatically added to the child’s birth certificate. The parents should complete The Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida form (DH-743A) or provide a written statement under oath to the Clerk of Court when they apply for their marriage license. 

Establishing Paternity in Florida

When both parents are in agreement, you can establish paternity with a simple form.

 

4. What are my rights as a legal father once paternity is established?

It’s important to realize that legally establishing paternity in Florida doesn’t immediately guarantee custody rights, such as time-sharing or decision-making. It’s really the first step. If you and your child’s other parent can’t reach a mutually acceptable arrangement, a Florida judge will make those decisions for you. But they’ll require confirmation of paternity before any child custody case can begin. 

5. How can I establish paternity without going to court?

If both parties are willing to cooperate, the Florida Department of Revenue can help parents determine paternity with no need for court hearings. The mother, alleged father, and child(ren) must provide genetic samples. If the test results prove that he is the biological father, his name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. There’s no cost for the genetic test, which is easy and reliable. Plus, the order has the same effect as a paternity judgment issued by the court.

6. How can I establish paternity if we don’t agree?

The mother of the child, the alleged father, a legal representative of the child, or the Florida Department of Revenue can commence a paternity action. To start the process, you can file a Petition to Establish Paternity with the court. Depending on the circumstances, you can also request that related issues be addressed within the same legal proceeding. You might want to resolve child support, health and medical insurance, visitation, and time-sharing and parenting plans. The court may order a genetic test, which one or both parents might have to pay, plus court costs.

8 Frequently Asked Questions About Establishing Paternity in Florida

When you file a Petition to Establish Paternity with the court, they will likely order a genetic test, which you may have to pay, in addition to court costs. If both parties cooperate and do not file a Petition, the Florida Department of Revenue will pay for any genetic testing.

 

7. Can I refuse to participate in a paternity test?

If an alleged father refuses to take a paternity test, he can be held in contempt of court. This is a crime with hefty fines and even jail time in some cases. In addition, if the alleged father is served but does not appear in court, the judge may choose to “default” him and make him the legal father without being present.

8. Is it possible to disestablish paternity in Florida?

Florida law allows a legal father to challenge his stated paternity. If successful, the court will not only declare he is not the legal father but also confirm that he doesn’t have to continue paying child support. To start the process, the legal father must:

  • File a petition to disestablish paternity and/or terminate child support with the court. Florida law requires that the legal father send a copy of the petition to the mother and the Department of Revenue (if child support is involved).
  • Prepare a sworn statement describing “new evidence” regarding paternity and confirming that child support is up-to-date. The new evidence can be genetic testing results or statements or comments made by the mother or others. However, it must be information discovered after legal paternity was first established or a child support order was first issued.
  • Results of genetic tests showing that the legal father is not the biological father. If the mother will not allow the child to participate in the test, the father should include this fact in the sworn statement.

Despite the above, the court may deny the petition if you’ve represented to others that you’re the father of the child or signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. It’s important to have a solid case before filing.

Do you have additional questions about establishing paternity in Florida that we haven’t answered above? If you’re feeling uncertain about your case, contact us for a free, confidential consultation.

 

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