Florida law maintains that the mother of a child born out of wedlock is automatically considered to be the legal parent and natural guardian of that child. If a child's parents are not married to each other when that child is born, Florida courts will not automatically presume the male she is with is the biological father and thus recognize the father's duties and financial obligations to the child unless paternity is legally established.
Child support guidelines in the State of Florida govern the amount of child support to be paid in divorce proceedings, also apply to determine, modify, or enforce child support for children born out of a marriage This may include the amount of retroactive child support to the date when the parents did not live together in the same household with the child, but cannot exceed 2 years before the filing of the hearing to establish paternity. What that means is that if a Father has not paid any court ordered support, the furthest back the court or Child Support Enforcement can go is 2 years of arrears.
There are essentially three types of Paternity actions in Florida:
- Signing the Birth Certificate - this establishes a presumption that the Man signing the birth certificate is the Biological Father, but gives him no legal rights. Once the Birth Certificate is signed, there is really no backing out after the time period expires.
- Department of Revenue (DOR) - can have a Court adjudicate the person as the legal father for the purposes of paying Child Support, but still gives him no legal right for Parenting Time or Shared Parental Responsibility.
- File a Paternity action is Circuit Court requesting the Court establish a Parenting Plan with time-sharing and Shared Parental Responsibility.
Paternity litigation resulting in disputes can arise in two situations; (1) a mother claims that a particular male is the father of her children; or (2) a male claims to be the biological father of a child.
I have frequently handled issues involving:
- Protecting clients from false claims of paternity
- Establishing paternity
- Disestablishment of paternity
- Calculating child support
- Retroactive child support
- Registration in Florida's Putative Father Registry
If you believe you are the father of a child born or about to be born to a woman that you no longer have a relationship with, and you want to parent the child, it is extremely important that you seek out information regarding The Florida Putative Father Registry and file a Claim of Paternity form with the Registry. The site contains valuable information steps needed to preserve your legal rights.
Once you file with the Registry, you are claiming your paternity for the child and confirm your willingness and intent to support the child for whom you are claiming paternity. Additionally, you consent to submit to DNA testing. This may result in you being required to pay child support.
How Can Paternity be Established?
Establishing paternity means you are asking to the Court to make a legal determination that you are the father of the child. If the parents are not married to each other when the child is born, the child does not have a legal father unless paternity is established.
What if I'm Not Sure I'm the Father?
Either parent can ask for a DNA test to determine who the father is. The test is easy and not very expensive. And it only takes only a few minutes. It usually involves gently wiping the inside of the mouth with a swab. Samples may be taken from the mother, but must be taken from the child and the man who is believed to be the father. Test results will be available in four to six weeks.
How Do Parents Benefit from Establishing Paternity?
Establishing paternity gives both the father and the mother legal rights:
- Seek a court order for child support
- Seek a court order for custody or a parenting plan
- Have a say in legal decisions about the child (Shared Parenting)
How Long Will it Take to Establish Paternity?
Signing a form saying that you are the parents of the child takes just a few minutes. If genetic testing is required, it could take about four weeks to get the results. If both parents don't sign the form and a court has to determine who the father is, then it could take up to six months or longer, depending on the court's schedule or other reasons.
If you are an unmarried parent looking to establish your rights, and want more information, please visit our website or call the office to schedule your initial consultation. We employ a client based approach, which means that we are selective in the cases we take so that we can be available to our clients. We spend time with you to thoroughly understand the facts of your case, so that we can provide you with a comprehensive and realistic legal evaluation. Our process begins with a half-hour low-cost consultation, all of which is credited back to your account if we accept your case.