In Florida, there is an assumption that when a mother gives birth during a marriage, the spouse is the father of the newborn baby. Today, however, many women give birth but are not married. Paternity that is not established as a result of a marriage can be established through the court system in an Establishment of Paternity case. But there is much more to paternity than this.
At Veliz Katz Law, we know that determining paternity can be a stressful and anxious time for mothers and fathers alike. There is, after all, a lot at stake. We are here to help you, whether you are the mother or the alleged father. Below is an overview of paternity law in Florida. If you want more specific answers to questions related to your case, contact us to schedule a consultation.
When & How is Paternity in Florida Established?
Contrary to popular belief, paternity in Florida is not established by a signature on a birth certificate. This signature represents a presumption that the person is the father of the child. This presumption remains in effect unless or until the mother or the father moves to establish paternity through the court. The same is true if you are unmarried. At the time of the birth, an unmarried couple may sign a paternity acknowledgment form at the hospital – but the name of the father or the signature of the same is only a presumption. If questions arise later, paternity can be contested and a court order can require DNA testing.
For example, a couple may be married and may have welcomed a child into the world together. Later, it's revealed that the mother had a brief affair around the same time the child was conceived. The birth certificate suggests the husband is the father – it's his name on the birth certificate. The spouse or the person with whom she had the affair could file an action later to establish paternity. The mother may object, but in Florida, either the mother or the father (the husband or the person believing he is the father) may file a Petition to Establish Paternity.
Thus, paternity is presumed via a birth certificate or a paternity acknowledgment form. The court will, however, establish paternity if there are questions later about who the biological father actually is.
How Do You Start the Paternity Process in Florida?
To start the paternity process in Orlando, you must complete a Petition to Determine Paternity form. Florida Statute 742.021 outlines the process.
This form must be filed with the Clerk at the Circuit Court in Orange County. There are documents that must accompany this form, and these documents include:
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.902(d)
- Notice of Social Security Number, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.902(j).
- Family Law Financial Affidavit, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b) or(c)
- Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure
- Form 12.932 – unless either (1) you file it within 45 days or (2) you and the other party agreed not to exchange these documents
- Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(e) – this form may also be filed later if the other party's income is not initially known and you must wait for the financial affidavit
- Parenting Plan, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form, 12.995(a), 12.995(b), or 12.995(c) – if the parenting plan is agreed, then it should be signed by both parties, and if it is not agreed, then a proposal should be filed.
The petitioner – the person filing to establish paternity – must also provide copies of all the paperwork to the other party. The petitioner can be the mother or the father (either presumed father or another person believing to be the father).
Mediation may be required. If the child was conceived during a marriage, a guardian ad litem may also be appointed to protect the rights of the child.
If there is a dispute about the identity of the father, which is likely the case if a petition has been filed, then a DNA test will be ordered and cannot be refused.
When is Paternity Established?
Once the results of the DNA test have been received and the court has heard from both parties, a Final Judgment of Paternity may be issued. The final judgment will determine paternity. The final judgment will end all questions about who the biological father is.
Why Should You Establish Paternity in Florida?
The first and foremost reason to establish paternity is to identify who the biological father is. Flowing from this reason is a number of other reasons, like:
- health – knowing who the father is will allow the child to have a comprehensive understanding of any genetic health conditions or other health matters that may run in the paternal family line;
- child support – the court may order child support to help the mother care for the child;
- timesharing or custody – the biological father, if not a husband, has a right to develop a relationship with the child, and it is indeed in the best interests of the child (in most circumstances) to do so.
What Rights Do Mothers & Fathers Have in Paternity Cases in Florida?
Biological parents have a right to know their child and to develop a relationship with the child. Likewise, a person who believes he is the father of a child has the right to know, and a mother cannot deny the establishment of paternity.
At the same time, even if the father does not establish paternity and does not want to do so, the mother still has the right to know if the suspected person is the father. If so, the mother has a right to child support – a biological father cannot walk away from a child without undertaking his responsibilities as a parent.
There is no statute of limitations on paternity. So, if the mother waits five years after the birth of the child, she can still file a petition seeking to establish paternity.
Also, if a person finds out that he is not the biological father after presuming he was – he may or may not have the right to disestablish paternity. Florida Statute § 742.18 outlines the process to disestablish paternity or to terminate a child support obligation if it turns out the person is not the biological father.
What happens if the child will be adopted?
Adoption terminates the biological relationship of a parent – mother and father alike – forever. An unmarried biological father can prevent an adoption if he wishes to retain his parental obligations, but if the father is not named in a birth certificate, a paternity acknowledgment form, of a court order establishing paternity, the father must register his paternity with Florida's Putative Father Registry maintained by the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health.
By registering, the father preserves the right to notice and consent to the adoption of the child. If the father does not register, the court will not require his consent.
An unmarried biological father can register a paternity claim before the child is born but cannot do so after a petition is filed to terminate parental rights. If the latter occurs and the father is served a Notice of Intended Adoption Plan, he has 30 days to file a paternity claim.
Why Contact Veliz Katz Law for Your Orlando FL Paternity Case
We at Veliz Katz Law want what's best for the child just as much as we want what's best for you. Relationships between a child and his or her parents are fundamental to the child's growth and overall well-being. Filing a petition, however, can require a lot of time and failure to provide the right documentation can lead to unwanted delays. If you have questions or concerns about paternity, contact our office to schedule a consultation today.