Paternity is defined as the state or fact of being a father. It’s the legal relationship of a father and his biological or adopted children. Paternity law deals with the rights and obligations of a father to his child and the child to their father. Children can have paternity rights involving inheritance, legitimacy, social security and military benefits, and the right to the father’s surname. On the other hand, fathers might have a right to child custody, access to and timesharing of a child, and an obligation to provide financial support. Paternity can also establish legal rights and benefits for the mother, the biological father and the legal father, if they don’t happen to be one in the same.
In Florida, Paternity is established in one of two ways:
The father and mother were married at the time of the child’s birth, and there is an automatic “presumption of paternity” or “presumption of legitimacy.”
The child is born out-of-wedlock and the father accepts the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, or paternity is established through the court system in an “Establishment of Paternity” case.
Michael Atter, David Wolf and Jennifer Eringer are experienced Family Law Attorneys who have represented both mothers and fathers seeking to establish or disestablish the paternity of a child.
Wood, Atter and Wolf understands you may have questions relative to the paternity of a child and have included:Frequently Asked Questions Is Paternity Established When I Sign the Birth Certificate?
No. The signing of a birth certificate does not establish the rights of a father. The signing of a birth certificate merely establishes a presumption that the man who signed is the father. However, a Petition to Establish Paternity must be filed to create or establish the parental rights of the father.How Do I Establish Paternity and Paternal Rights to the Child?
To establish paternity you (either the mother or father) can file a Petition to Establish Paternity with the court. In order to file an action in Florida, the Petitioner must be a resident of the State of Florida for at least 6 months prior to filing. In the Petition, you will request that paternity (i.e. fatherhood) be determined by the Court. Furthermore, through these legal proceedings, the following issues can be addressed: child support, health and medical insurance, visitation, and time sharing and parenting plans pursuant to Florida law.Who Can Establish Paternity?
Either the mother or father may file a Petition to Establish Paternity. In addition, anyone who believes himself to be the father may file to establish paternity. If paternity has not been established and the child's guardian or mother requests government assistance for the child (i.e. Medicaid), the State of Florida Department of Revenue may file a Petition to Establish Paternity for purposes of child support. The petition by the Florida Department of Revenue can include any and all possible fathers of the child.Do I Have to Take a DNA Test?
Maybe. If both the mother and alleged father agree on the paternity of the child, then a DNA test is not required. However, if there is a dispute as to the identity of the father, then a DNA test will typically be ordered to determine the proper biological father of the child.If a Father Does Not Establish Paternity, Is the Father Free and Clear of Child and Related Support?
No. The mother has a right to file a Petition to Establish Paternity so that she may collect child support from the father. The father's obligations do not cease to exist because the father failed to act. The mother is not bound to a certain timeframe in which she has to file the petition, as long as the child is a minor. If a petition is filed, then the mother has the right to request prior child support going back 24 months from the date the petition was filed.If Paternity Is Not Established by the Court or by Marriage, Can the Child Be Adopted Without My Consent?
Maybe. If you did not establish paternity, then you should file with the Florida Putative Father Registry with the Office of Vital Statistics that you may be the father of a child in Florida. The registry asks for information related to the mother and the possible date of birth of the child. If the child is placed for adoption, there is a requirement that a search be completed of the registry. If you fail to do that, but the mother has reason to believe that you are the father, then she has a duty to provide that information when giving the child up for adoption. If you cannot be located, then you may receive notice through an ad that runs in a legal newspaper or section of the paper. If you have not registered with the Putative Father Registry, and the mother does not know your name or that you are possibly the father, then you may not receive notice of any kind that the child was adopted.If I Find Out that My Child Is Not My Child, Can I Disestablish My Paternity?
Maybe. In Florida, to disestablish paternity, you must file a Petition to Disestablish Paternity with the court. This petition must strictly comply Florida Statute 742.18, which explains who qualifies to disestablish paternity and what must be filed to do so.Why Wood, Atter and Wolf?
If you have been served with a paternity suit, we are here to serve your legal interests. For over 50 years, Wood, Atter & Wolf have been representing Family Law clients with a focused approach to their legal representation. Michael, David and Jennifer have handled 100’s of divorce, child support, paternity, and modification cases in the North Florida area. We are skilled at listening to and understanding our clients’ desires and needs. We understand the importance of winning through aggressive and skilled legal representation. We strive to educate our clients through every step of the legal process so they know their rights and can make the choices that best fit their individual needs. Give us a call today at (904) 355-8888.