You may decline to submit to a paternity test in Florida, but there are legal consequences for doing so. Criminal penalties may apply if you were ordered by the court to submit your DNA or your child’s DNA for testing. Depending on your perspective in a paternity dispute, the court may also establish paternity and order child support, custody, and visitation regardless of whether a sample from either side was provided.
Ultimately, however, it’s never a good idea to handle important legal matters without hiring an attorney for guidance. You should never decide to decline a paternity test or handle any other legal matter involving paternity without assistance from an experienced family lawyer.
How Is Paternity Established in Florida?
Paternity refers to establishing who is a child’s second legal parent, which is important because that person has a financial responsibility for supporting their child. It’s almost always clear who one of a child’s legal parents is because one of them is responsible for giving birth. Sometimes, though, it’s not always clear who the second legal parent is – especially if a child is born outside of marriage.
When this is the case, there are two ways to establish paternity:
Formal Acknowledgement: Someone who wishes to assume legal responsibility for a child may do so by voluntarily completing a paternity agreement. Many couples who aren’t married but share children in common do this to ensure fathers are legally considered parents. Signing these acknowledgments is possible upon the child’s birth and until they turn 18 years old.
- Court Order: When a child’s paternity is in dispute, a court order may be required to establish it. It’s during these disputes that DNA tests may be ordered by the court; should that occur, complying with the tests is mandatory under the penalty of law.
It’s important to note that when a couple is married, Florida presumes the married couple to be the child’s legal parents regardless of the child’s biological parentage. If, for example, a parent conceives a child with someone outside of the marriage, that parent’s spouse would still be considered the child’s other legal parent.
What Are the Consequences of Declining a DNA Paternity Test?
Declining a DNA paternity test despite a court order would likely result in criminal misdemeanor charges. A conviction for these charges can result in a sentence of up to one year in county jail.
Additionally, the judge may settle the paternity dispute regardless of whether any sample was provided or not. For example, someone who is ordered to provide their DNA to establish paternity for child support may be determined to be a child’s legal parent regardless of testing. Similarly, a parent who seeks custody or visitation can still receive it if the other parent refuses to provide a sample of the child’s DNA.
In other words, failing to submit to a DNA paternity test isn’t an advisable way to prevent financial responsibility for a child that may not be yours or prevent someone you don’t trust from gaining access to your child.
Always Consult with an Attorney
Paternity is a complex legal issue that can have serious implications for both parents and the child involved. It’s important to understand your rights and options before taking any action, which is why consulting with a family lawyer should always be your first step.
At Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A., we provide knowledgeable legal guidance for all paternity-related matters. We understand the importance of this process and strive to ensure that our clients have the best possible outcome from their case. Our experienced attorneys will work closely with you to make sure that your parental rights are protected and respected every step of the way.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your paternity concerns.