Paternity is a legal recognition of fatherhood. If a mother is married when she gives birth, the state of Florida assumes that the child’s father is her husband.
But as non-traditional family structures become more commonplace in the US, questions may arise about paternity laws. How is paternity established when the parents are unmarried? What are the benefits of legally establishing a child’s father?
We hope to answer some of those questions. Paternity law is complex and multifaceted, however. If you have a specific question about your unique situation, you should contact a family law attorney.
How Our State Establishes Paternity
If a child is born to unmarried parents, paternity must be established—either voluntarily or through a court order.
If both the mother and alleged father agree on who the father is, they can fill out and sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” form. This form states—under oath—that the man signing the form is the child’s father.
Once it is signed, the form will become valid after 60 days. After this period of time, neither parent can revoke paternity of the child. If a parent wants to revoke their paternity acknowledgement, they must prove in court that either fraud or extreme force was used to obtain their signature.
If one of the people involved does not voluntarily agree to paternity, the other parent can take the issue to court. Under Florida law, there are a number of people and agencies who can start the process of establishing paternity. They are:
- the child’s mother
- the man who believes he is the father or who has been identified as the father (the alleged father)
- the child through a legal representative
- the Florida Department of Child Support Services
The Florida Department of Child Support services can only take paternity matters concerning child support to court. Time-sharing or parental responsibility matters must be initiated by the mother or the alleged father.
The Benefits of Establishing Paternity
Of course, every child can benefit from the presence of their father in their life. Additionally, paternity is relevant in child support issues. If the mother of a child is the only one raising him or her, the father should be held responsible for part of the cost of the child’s development. Establishing paternity is a way to hold the father legally responsible for payment.
Additionally, the child may have health insurance benefits under the father, or they may be entitled to benefits from the government if the father is disabled or a veteran.
Many fathers, however, wish to establish paternity of their own accord, but encounter resistance from the child’s mother. If there is conflict between the two parents, the father may need a court order to obtain his share of time with his child.
The father may also want to have a say in the decisions concerning his child’s upbringing. Healthcare, education, religion, and other important development-related choices are under the authority of a child’s parent. To obtain joint parental responsibility, a father must establish his paternity over the child.
If you are currently dealing with paternity-related issues, we would like to hear from you. Expert family law counsel can help you navigate the complexities of family law and protect your rights, as well as those of your family.