When a child is born to unmarried parents, only the mother automatically assumes parental rights. In order to be legally recognized, the father must take steps to prove paternity. Below, we review how paternity can be established in Florida and why you should complete this process.
Establishing Paternity through Voluntary Acknowledgment in Florida
If everyone agrees on who the child’s father is, proving paternity is straightforward. You and the child’s mother will simply need to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. Once 60 days have passed from the date both parents signed the form, you will be legally recognized as the child’s father.
Establishing Paternity through Legitimization in Florida
You can also automatically become your child’s legal father through marriage. Through legitimation, your status as a parent will be confirmed once you marry the child’s mother. The child’s mother must voluntarily recognize you as the child’s biological father.
Establishing Paternity through Genetic Testing in Florida
You do not necessarily need to go to court if there is a disagreement over who the child’s father is. The mother, child, and suspected father can each submit a DNA sample to the Florida Department of Revenue. The agency will send these samples to a laboratory and confirm whether there is a match. If the child’s DNA matches the father’s, the Florida Department of Revenue will generate an enforceable Administrative Order of Paternity. This order confirms the father’s relationship to the child for purposes of enforcing parental rights. Submitting to DNA testing is often cheaper and more efficient than litigating these disputes in court.
Establishing Paternity through Court Action in Florida
In situations where the mother is uncooperative, you may be forced to file a paternity action in the applicable family court. Only the child’s mother, the child’s suspected father, a legal representative of the child, or the Florida Department of Revenue can initiate these cases.
The court will hear evidence and may order genetic testing. Once paternity has been established (or not), the parents can make additional requests. For example, a newly recognized father may request visitation or joint custody.
Why You Should Prove Paternity in Florida
If you are in a happy relationship with your child’s mother, you may be wondering why you need to go through the formality of proving paternity. Until you are legally recognized as the child’s father, you will not be able to exercise your parental rights. You will not have a say in how your child is raised, and the mother will not be obligated to facilitate visitation.
Our family law attorneys at Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. can help you explore all of your options for establishing paternity. We have over 35 years of combined legal experience and know how to effectively approach these cases in and out of the courtroom.
If you have more questions about paternity or need help establishing it, contact us online or call (727) 245-9009 to discuss your situation with our team.