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Paternity And The New Law Outlawing Child Brides


Identifying a child’s paternity is relatively easy today, but historically, young girls who became pregnant were often forced to marry the purported father so the child was not born out of wedlock. Some cultures still follow this line of thinking, even if the child was the product of a sexual assault. Normally, a person must be 18 years old to get married, but minors are permitted to enter into this legal bond if the girl is pregnant, regardless of her age. A new law in Florida, set to go into effect in July, will eliminate this exception, so child brides would be a thing of the past. With the advent of modern technology and the passage of this law, young girls now are in a place where forced marriage will not happen, and paternity testing will allow them to identify and collect child support from the biological father. A discussion of the provisions in the new law, and different methods of proving paternity, including available testing before the child is born, will follow below.

New Marriage Law

The new marriage law maintains a harder line on the age requirement for marriage, and will prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from obtaining a marriage license, with an exception made for a 17-year-old who has written parental consent and has a partner is no more than two years older. No longer is pregnancy of the female minor a factor in granting a marriage license, and courts are no longer authorized to even consider marriage for those under 17. This law, with a small exception, effectively eliminates minors from being forced into marriage in this State. However, young girls, unfortunately, will continue to get pregnant for a number of reasons, and the issue of proving paternity comes into sharper focus, as that will now be the sole means to pursue an alleged father for child support.

Proving Paternity

Since underage marriage is tied in part to providing paternity for child, understanding how to establish a legally-recognized father when a child is born out of wedlock is key to obtaining child support and future access to medical information the child may need if a disease develops. In fact, with today’s medical technology it is possible to perform non-invasive genetic testing before the child is born to identify the father. The testing can be performed as early as eight weeks into the pregnancy, and only requires blood from the mother and DNA from the alleged father. A paternity petition will still need to be filed with a court or handled through the administrative process offered by the Florida Department of Revenue before child support obligations will be ordered. In addition, the parents have the ability to voluntarily acknowledge paternity by completing the Florida Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital or submitting it at a later time to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Note that voluntarily completing and signing this form automatically establishes the man as the child’s legal father, so it should only be executed if both parents are comfortable with the decision. In addition, if the parents later marry, the husband will become the child’s legal father, though additional steps will need to be taken to add his name to the birth certificate.

Talk to a Florida Family Law Attorney

Marriage, children, and all the implications these things bring are major decisions and life events for everyone. Many legal ramifications are attached to these issues, and if you have questions about parentage, child custody, or child support, talk to the experienced attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. to hear how the law might apply to your situation. Our skill and dedication to clients will produce the result you need. Contact the Fort Lauderdale office for a free consultation.



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