When a woman in Florida is married and gives birth to a child, the woman’s husband is legally assumed to be the father of the child. However, many individuals are unmarried when they have children. In those situations, establishing paternity can be an important first step for a father to have his name on the birth certificate and to convey certain public or private benefits on behalf of a child, such as health or life insurance or veterans benefits. It also provides a means to secure child support orders and court-ordered parenting time with the child. If you are a parent who wishes to establish the paternity of your child, an experienced Miami paternity attorney can help you understand the process.
When Does Legal Paternity Need to Be Established in Florida?
Legal paternity can be established at any time before the child’s 18th birthday. However, fathers are encouraged to establish paternity as soon as possible after a child is born in order to provide important information and benefits to their child, including:
- Information about their family medical history
- Support from both parents, including medical support and child support
- Health and life insurance or government benefits from the Veterans Administration or Social Security
- The opportunity for the child to have a meaningful relationship with their father, including parenting time
The Difference Between Biological and Legal Paternity
A biological father is defined as the individual who is related by blood to the child and whose genes they inherited. The legal father is an individual who has acquired legal responsibility for financially supporting the child and making decisions on their behalf. One can become a legal father by having a court order determining that they’re a legal father, by marrying the mother and legitimizing the child, or through adoption.
How to Establish Paternity
There are five ways that paternity can be established in Florida, including:
- At birth, if the parents are married, the child is assumed to belong to the father, and no further action is necessary to prove paternity.
- At birth or at any time before the child’s 18th birthday, if the parents both sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity.
- After birth, if the mother is unmarried at the time of the birth but later marries the child’s father, paternity can be established when applying for the marriage license.
- After birth, the paternity can be determined by a judge or court, with or without a genetic test.
- After birth, paternity can also be determined through a support order, with evidence of paternity determined through a genetic test. If it is determined that the alleged father is, in fact, the child’s biological father, an Administrative Order of Paternity will be issued, establishing paternity in a legally enforceable manner.
Establishing paternity does not establish all of the legal rights and responsibilities of being a father, though. This only happens through marriage with the mother or through a court order.
Can Paternity Be Disestablished?
If an unmarried father agrees to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, he will be conveyed certain legal rights and responsibilities of a father to his child. However, if at some point the father realizes that he is not actually the child’s father, he will remain legally and financially responsible for the child until he goes to court and obtains an order disestablishing paternity.
How a Miami Paternity Attorney Can Help
An experienced Miami paternity lawyer can help fathers assert their parental rights by legally establishing paternity through a court order. Once paternity is proven, an attorney can also assist the father in obtaining parenting time with the child or even in pursuing custody. The attorney can also assist the father in developing a child support agreement with the child’s mother or through a court-ordered support arrangement.
For women, a Miami paternity attorney can help with the legal process of establishing paternity, even if the father refuses to voluntarily submit to genetic testing.
Court decisions pertaining to time-sharing and support are made with a focus on what is in the best interest of the child. In most cases, having an ongoing relationship with their father is in a child’s best interests. Let our experienced Miami paternity attorney help you make sense of the process of establishing paternity so that the appropriate legal actions can be taken to ensure your right to have a relationship with your child. We can help you with other family law issues, as well, including spousal support (alimony), modification of a divorce agreement, or even determining a fair division of assets in a high net worth divorce. Contact us for a free case evaluation.