Should I Bring a Paternity Suit?
Under Florida law, any children born to a married woman are presumed to be the biological child of her husband and paternity is acknowledged without any action having to be taken—the husband automatically becomes the child’s legal father. However, if a child is born to an unwed mother, paternity is not assumed and must be established.
Benefits of Paternity
Establishing paternity gives all parties involved certain legal rights and privileges. Establishing paternity allows the child to be covered by the father’s insurance policy as well as to inherit from the father in the event that he passes away with or without a will. In most cases, it also gives the father the right to spend time with the child and to assist in making major life decisions for the child. It also has the benefit of ensuring child support.
What if the Husband is not the Father?
In instances where the birth mother’s husband is not the biological father to her child, the husband may not want the rights and privileges that come with paternity or the burden of child support. Alternatively, the mother might prefer for the biological father to have those rights and obligations instead. In such a case, the husband may rebut the presumption of paternity by filing a Petition to Disestablish Paternity in court. This petition can include DNA test results showing a substantial likelihood that the husband is not the father, or, alternatively, may request a court order to perform such a test.
One caveat you may want to be aware of is that children conceived through artificial insemination during marriage, even without the knowledge of the husband, are still considered the legal children of the husband, and the petition to disestablish paternity will not be granted in such cases.
Voluntarily Establishing Paternity
The easiest way to establish paternity is to voluntarily do so at the hospital. If you were not married at the time of your child’s birth, but subsequently marry the child’s mother, you can establish paternity when applying for your marriage license. Both parents can also sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form at any point.
Establishing Paternity with a Suit
In the event that paternity cannot be agreed to, you may want to consider a paternity suit. The financial burdens and general responsibilities that come with raising a child can be a lot for one person to try and manage, and you may wish to get the support that your child is legally entitled to. Alternatively, you may wish to have your paternity recognized so that you are legally entitled to care for and spend time with your child. In either case, the mother or the individual who believes himself to be the father can file suit to determine paternity. The suit can be filed prior to the child’s birth; however, the court must wait until after the child’s birth to issue its order. In the event that paternity is established through this process, the court may rule on other matters, such as custody and child support at the same time.
Contact a Florida Paternity Attorney
It can be overwhelming figuring out how best to care for your child and assert your rights. An experienced Fort Lauderdale paternity attorney will be able to assess your unique circumstances and determine the best course of action to protect both you and your child. The attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. are ready to help you get the best possible outcome. Call 954-467-6656 to schedule your free consultation today.