How is Paternity Established in Florida? Part One: What is paternity, and how is it established out of court?
Definition of “paternity” as found in Merriam-Webster dictionary, “the quality or state of being a father”. In other words, the man who fathers a child is considered to have the paternity of that child. While this may seem obvious to a man who thinks he is the father of a child, there can sometimes be a situation when his paternity or fatherhood is called into question. Unlike the mother who bears a child and so is most definitely the mother, it can be unclear as to precisely who is the true father. Frequently, in the contemporary society of our modern world, when creating a baby is no longer usually accomplished following the rite of matrimony, there are instances when a woman denies a certain man is the father of her child and will not allow him to be a part of the child’s life. Too, some women claim a certain man is the father of her child in order to have him adjudicated to pay child support. For a man to prove himself the father to see his child or not to be the father in order to not have to pay child support has become an important issue in Family Courts across America. Each state has its way or ways of establishing paternity so this blog will focus only on the state of Florida.
It is interesting to note that there are two ways of describing paternity in Florida, legal and biological. When a couple is married, and a child is conceived and born following marriage, biological (unless challenged) and legal paternity is proven, If an unmarried couple has a child, a man may be considered the biological father, yet not the legal father until a court has ordered it so. Further, if a couple conceive a child and then the mother marries another, the man with paternity is still considered the biological father while the new marital partner is considered the legal father. In any case, when there is a dispute about the paternity of a child, be it legal or biological, certain methods apply to solve the issue one way or the other.
The easiest way to determine paternity in Florida is when there is no disagreement between the parties as to who is the father. By both parties signing the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity man will become the biological and legal father of the child and have the legal responsibilities of caring for and raising the child and have full participation in the child’s life. Sixty days after signing the agreement becomes binding for life. Only if it can later be proven extreme pressure to sign by either party took place can the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity be revoked.
Another way to establish paternity in Florida without having to go to court is getting married before the child is born. As mentioned above any child born after marriage is considered the legal child of both parents, no matter who the biological father is. Should a couple have a child before marriage and later marry, the father can, through the process of legitimization, be determined by the legal father as well as the biological father.
Genetic testing is yet another way biological paternity can be proven. Samples containing DNA from swabbing the inner cheek of the mother, the child, and the man in question and sending it to an independent laboratory for testing will make the paternity determination. The DNA from the alleged father and the DNA from the child will be compared to see if there is a match. When there is a question of paying child support the Florida Department of Revenue can issue an Administrative Order of Paternity and when the DNA results prove positive to notify the Florida Office of Vital Statistics to place the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate. Thus the father is legitimized as biological and legal and must pay child support. There are advantages for the father, however, as he can now petition the court for access to his child and be able to be a part of the child’s life.
The above methods of proving paternity often prove successful. However, there are times when it is necessary to have the court intervene, and a judge makes the final judgment. In Part two of this blog, we will look at paternity action in a Florida Family Law court. Who can file and what will happen is discussed along with what happens when a father is told he is, in fact, not the biological father when he was made to believe he was.