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Establishing Paternity in Florida

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Establishing paternity for a child can at times be a challenging hurdle, particularly if the mother is unmarried. Under Florida law, there is a presumption that the husband of a married mother is the father of any child that mother has, there is no such presumption for unmarried couples.  As a result, in such cases, a Petition to Establish Paternity must be filed to establish a father’s rights and responsibilities.

If a father is not married to the mother of his child at the time the child is born, he has no legal rights to time sharing with this child unless he establishes paternity. Accordingly, if the father seeks to have time with his son, he will also likely need to petition the court to establish paternity.

The Benefits of Establishing Paternity               

There are benefits to both mothers and fathers to want to establish paternity for a child. For a mother, establishing paternity is a means of receiving child support from the child’s father. Additionally, the father may have important benefits such as employer-provided health insurance that the child may be eligible for if paternity is established. For a father, establishing paternity is important if the father wants to be able to have a say in major decisions for the child and if the father wants to exercise parenting time with his child. As noted above, a father will not have either of these rights unless paternity is established first.

Obtaining a Voluntary Acknowledgment or Court Order to Establish Paternity

If a mother is unmarried at the time her child is born, Florida Stat. Ann. § 742.10 provides two options for establishing paternity for the child: (1) voluntary acknowledgment or (2) obtaining a court order. A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is a good option if both the mother and father agree that the man is the biological father of the child. A voluntary acknowledgment serves as the father’s acknowledgment under oath that he is the child’s legal father. The acknowledgement should be signed by both parties and either notarized or witnessed by two individuals. Once signed, either parent may revoke the acknowledgment within 60 days of the signing. After the 60 days have elapsed, a parent may only revoke the acknowledgment if they can prove to the court they were induced by fraudulent representations by the other party or if they can prove the other parent or a third party employed extreme force to get the parent to sign.

If one of the parties is not willing to execute a voluntary acknowledgment, then either party may proceed to petition the court to establish paternity for the child. Even if neither party petitions the court, the Florida Department of Child Support Services or a legal representative for the minor child may also seek to establish paternity.

Contact Our Experienced Winter Park Family Law Attorneys Today

Whether you are an unmarried mother seeking to receive support from your child’s biological father or a father seeking to obtain timesharing rights with his child, establishing paternity is an important first step to take. It is important to hire an experienced local family law attorney to help you understand your options to streamline the process. Our skilled Winter Park attorneys at Cotter & Zelman, P.A. can help you understand what option will best work for your particular case. Contact us today for a free case review.

Resources:

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0742/Sections/0742.10.html

floridahealth.gov/certificates/certificates/birth/_documents/DH_432_Ack_Paternity.pdf

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