Father spending time with his young son in the park

Paternity Rights in Florida

As the legal father of a child, you have certain rights and responsibilities. Parents have the responsibility to provide financial support to help ensure that a child’s needs are met. Parents have the right to spend time with their children, absent a truly compelling reason. These are just some of the basics. To put it plainly, establishing yourself as your child’s legal father is important. In doing so, you are legally establishing paternity. In many cases, establishing the legal father of a child is easy and there are no issues. Other times, however, things can be much more complicated.

Paternity Rights in Florida

The only time paternity is automatically established in Florida is when the father and the mother are married at the time of birth. In that case, the husband of the mother is the presumptive legal father of the child. His name goes on the birth certificate and that is that. If the father is not married to the mother, then paternity can be established by the birth mother and the father executing an Acknowledgement of Paternity in the presence of a notary or in the presence of two witnesses. This can be done in the hospital after the birth and then the father’s name can go right on the birth certificate.

Things can get complicated in establishing paternity, however, when the mother and father of the child are not married and one or the other of them have refused to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity. When this happens, the mother, father, or the child, can petition the court to determine paternity. A paternity suit in court can be necessary to establish paternity, but it can get messy, especially when one of the parties contests the action. Consider if the mother was married to someone else when the child was born and her husband is currently established as the legal father. If another man claims paternity, he will have to file a paternity action and both the mother and her husband will need to be served with the action.

In a paternity action, if the mother and the purported father are not in agreement as to who the natural father of the child is, then the court will order a DNA test to resolve this issue. The genetic test, or paternity test, involves swabbing the inside of the alleged father’s mouth and swabbing the inside of the child’s mouth. These DNA samples are then sent to a genetic testing lab where it will be determined if there is a match in their DNA that would conclusively prove parentage. If the DNA test results show the purported father to be the child’s natural father, then the court can enter an order declaring him to be the child’s legal father.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

Do you have paternity questions? Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou can help. Contact us today.

Andrew Nickolaou

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 also handles record expungements and sealings. If you have questions about this article, contact Andrew today by clicking here.