Establishing Paternity: Legal Rights and Obligations

Family Law Attorneys

A legal father has certain rights and responsibilities to their child. This is why establishing is so important. There are a number of ways that paternity, the legal recognition of a father’s status, can be legally established and not all of them will fit every set of circumstances. So, let’s take a look at how paternity can be established and the legal rights and obligations that come with its establishment.

Florida law assumes that, when a child is born to a married woman, that woman’s husband is the child’s father. If a child is born to an unmarried mother or another man other than her husband wants to assert that he is the actual father of the child, then paternity must be established another way. Paternity can either be established through voluntary acknowledgment or by court order.

The Process and Implications of Voluntary Acknowledgment

Unmarried parents are able to establish paternity for their child at any point by signing a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity.” This form acknowledges that the man signing the form is the child’s legal father. After signing the voluntary acknowledgment, there will be a 60-day period where either parent can revoke it claiming that the signing was the result of extreme force or even fraud.

Once the 60-day time period has passed, the form becomes legally binding and the father will be recognized as the child’s legal father.

Sometimes, however, either the mother or the purported father of the child will not voluntarily sign a form acknowledging paternity. When paternity is contested, a court order will need to be sought to have it established. The purported father, the mother, the child, or the Florida Department of Child Support Services has the ability to pursue an establishment of paternity action. The court will order genetic testing of the mother, the purported father, and the child to determine if they are a genetic match.  If the DNA testing results show that the purported father is the actual father of the child, then paternity will be established.

Understanding Legal Implications for Fathers

Being recognized as a child’s legal father comes with certain rights and responsibilities. Establishing paternity means that the father will be able to pursue court orders regarding child custody and visitation rights. Once paternity is established, courts can make determinations regarding custody, parenting plans, and child support. As the legal father of the child, the father not only has rights to see the child but also has responsibilities relating to providing financial support in order for the child’s needs to be met.

Establishing paternity means that the legal father may be able to provide the child with health insurance benefits and other forms of support. The child may also be entitled to other government benefits through the father such as disability or military benefits. There are also estate implications as the child may be entitled to inherit from the father’s estate when the time arises.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

Paternity rights are powerful. If you need help establishing paternity rights, reach out to the team at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou for assistance. Contact us today.

About the Author
Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew and his partner, Ophelia Bernal-Mora, Esq., B.C.S., joined forces in March 2016 to form the unique and boutique husband and wife family law team at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. Together, Andrew and Ophelia take a practical and team-based approach to all of their cases and clients to deliver the highest quality experience and representation.