Like many other states throughout the United States, Florida has seen rapid growth in the number of children born out of wedlock. In these cases, the need to establish paternity often arises for various reasons, such as assurance by one or both parties, to create an official record, for purposes of seeking support, and more. Florida law requires individuals to follow a particular set of rules or procedures to establish paternity within the state.
Standing to File Paternity Actions
There are many cases in which concerned parents or siblings wonder whether their family member is the child's father. Although the concern is undoubtedly sincere in most cases, these individuals do not have the standing to file an action in paternity. In Florida paternity cases, only a mother or potential father may file suit to establish paternity. Also, the court will only entertain a paternity filing if it has not already been established.
Establishment of Paternity
Establishing paternity is the process of obtaining a legal acknowledgment that confirms that a parental relationship exists. It is essential to understand that paternity may have been established regardless of whether a paternity test was taken.
Some circumstances in which the court has found paternity without a test include:
- When a child is born into an intact marriage: In any case in which a married woman gives birth, there is a presumption that her husband is the child's father.
- When an acknowledgment of paternity was signed: A court will find that paternity has been established in any case in which a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity was signed in the presence of a notary or two witnesses. Both parties must sign this acknowledgment.
- Marriage to the purported father marries the child's mother: In cases in which a child is born out of wedlock and the parties subsequently marry, the court will consider the child's purported father as the parent find that paternity has been established.
Challenging an Establishment of Paternity
Disestablishing paternity requires a petition (that can only be filed by the male legally declared to be the father) to allege that newly discovered evidence has developed after the initial paternity determination occurred. Outside of limited circumstances, one may be barred from challenging a prior paternity determination.
Consequences of Not Establishing Paternity
Under Florida Statute §7443.31, the child's mother is the natural guardian of a child born outside wedlock unless paternity has been established. This means that mothers have 100% of the rights until paternity is established. Thus, it is in the best interest of the father to immediately file a paternity action. Once paternity has been established, both parents have the same rights, and a father can fight for at least 50% time-sharing.
If you have questions about a paternity matter or your rights as a father, we invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation with an experienced Jacksonville family lawyer. At Florida Divorce Law Group, we practice family law throughout Florida, and we have consultation offices in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. We also have Zoom video meetings available, and of course phone consultations.