Whether you are married to your child’s other parent, the rights and responsibilities for raising your child are the same as if you were married. Simply because a child is born out of wedlock does not excuse either parent from fulfilling their parental responsibilities and duties for their child. However, if paternity is not established, the father does not have any legal rights regarding his child. For a mother, she cannot force a father to be responsible unless paternity is established.
More importantly, the child has a right to have both parents in his or her life. When paternity is in question, the child’s rights and best interests must be considered. Therefore, to address the best interests of all parties, Florida paternity laws provide several ways for parents to establish paternity of a child.
There are Five Ways to Establish Parentage Under Florida Paternity Laws
- Marriage — If the parents are married at the time the mother gives birth to the child, it is presumed that the mother’s husband is the father of the child. However, if the mother does not list the father on the child’s birth certificate, the father will need to establish paternity in another way.
- Legitimization — If the mother is not married when her child is born but she later marries the child’s father, her husband becomes the legal father of the child. However, this process is not automatic either. Both parents must complete an Affirmation of Common Child Born in Florida Form (DH-743A) to update the child’s birth certificate to list the father’s name. The parents can also sign a sworn statement at the clerk’s office when applying for their marriage license that is then submitted to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics to update the birth certificate with the father’s name.
- Acknowledgment of Paternity Form — Another way a father can establish paternity is to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (DH-432) with the mother and submit it to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics. The form must be notarized and have two witnesses. For this option to be utilized, the mother could not have been married at the time the child was born, and the child must be under 18 years of age.
- Court Order — The father can also file a legal action to establish paternity. If the mother agrees that the petitioner is the legal father of the child and signs a consent order, the court may adopt this order without any further hearings. However, if the mother denies paternity, the court will order genetic testing to determine if the petitioner is the biological father of the child.
- Genetic Testing — Genetic testing is the fifth way to establish paternity in Florida. The alleged father and the child go to a local Child Support Office for the genetic testing. The office issues an Administrative Order of Paternity that has the same effect as a court order if the genetic test reveals that the man is the biological father of the child.
Why is Establishing Paternity Important?
Establishing paternity is important for several reasons. The most important reason is the emotional well-being of the child. Establishing paternity allows a parent-child relationship between the father and the child. Florida adopted a timesharing system to replace custody arrangements because lawmakers believe that children benefit from having both parents play an active role in the child’s life and maintaining a close relationship with the child. A father that has not been legally recognized as the child’s legal father cannot seek child visitation.
Another important reason to establish paternity is the financial aspect. A parent has the responsibility to support his or her child financially. However, a mother cannot seek child support if paternity has not been settled. Furthermore, establishing paternity allows a child to be covered under health insurance, receive veteran’s benefits, inheritances, and Social Security benefits.
Florida Paternity Attorney in Palm Beach Gardens
Family court matters can be emotional and stressful, especially matters involving children. You want to work with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process, fight for the best interests of you and your child, and provide support and compassion as you go through the process of proving paternity. Our goal at Law Offices of Paul J. Burkhart, PL is to help you determine the best course of action to take to protect your child.
Contact our office by calling (561) 880-0155 to speak with a Palm Beach County paternity attorney. We represent mothers and fathers in all legal matters.