While daytime television shows make light of it, finding out you are the father of a child is no laughing matter. If you and the mother of your child are not married when your child is born, then establishing paternity is something that you will want to do at some point. In Florida, paternity must be established before you can get custody or child support. But establishing paternity doesn’t just benefit you and the child’s mother. It may also have a significant impact on the life of your child and may be necessary in some cases to receive social security, military benefits, and health care coverage. Let’s take a look at the ways that you can establish paternity in Florida, and what you can do if you need help.
Paternity is the legal recognition of who the father of a child is. To be sure, it is more than just an understanding between the parents. As a result, paternity can only be legally established through a few different ways. If you have a child with your wife while still married, then the law presumes that you are the father of the child. You do not need to establish paternity in that case. But if you are not married when your child is born, then you must establish paternity through the legally recognized ways.
At Birth At The Hospital: For most parents, paternity will be established at the hospital when the child is born. This is done by simply signing a document known as the Paternity Acknowledgment Form. Both parents must sign this document, and it will need to be notarized. Most hospitals will have this form on hand along with a notary to make it official. Once this legal document is completed, the acknowledgment form is then sent to the Department of Vital Records and used to complete the child’s birth certificate. If you filled out the form properly, then your name will appear on the child’s birth certificate, and you will be considered the child’s legal father. If the mother of the child is married at the time the child is born, this option will not be available to you.
By Legitimation: If you and the child’s mother are not married at the time the child is born, but you later get married to them, then you will be considered the legal father. Still, your name will not automatically get added to the child’s birth certificate. To do this you will need to complete the Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida Form or provide a written statement under oath to the Clerk of Court when you apply for your marriage license. The form will be provided to you when you return the completed marriage license. The Clerk of Court will send the completed form or written statement to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics so that your name can be added to the birth certificate.
By Acknowledgment Any Time Before The Child Is 18 Years Old: If for some reason you were unable to complete the acknowledgment form while at the hospital, then you can establish paternity by filing out the form at any time before the child reaches the age of 18. You will need two witnesses and a notary to do this. You will then mail the completed form to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics, and they will add the legal father's name to the birth certificate.
By A Court Order: There are situations where paternity must be established through the court. Specifically, a civil action must be filed for an order of paternity to be issued. If you are filing the civil action, then you must prove that all parties to the case received notice of the court hearing. At the hearing, the judge will look at evidence and take testimony to determine who they believe to be the father of the child.
The court may order genetic testing to be done if the parties request it or if the court cannot determine who the father is through any other means. If there are multiple possible fathers, the court may order all of them to be tested. The test is done by taking a genetic sample (DNA swab) from the mother, possible father(s), and the child. Genetic testing can also be done through Florida’s Child Support Program. You do not need to go to court in order to take advantage of this option, and it will be provided to you at no cost. You will need to contact the Florida Department of Revenue to start this process.
Children deserve to know who their father is. Not knowing can have a significant impact on the growth and development of a child. Additionally, you may be unable to see your child if you cannot prove that you are the child’s legal father.
If you are the child’s mother and would like to receive child support, then you will have to show the court who the father is. Also, in the unfortunate event that your child’s father passes away, you may not be able to collect social security survivor benefits or veteran benefits for your child unless paternity has been established. You may also not be able to collect any inheritance that is left to your child on their behalf.
Additionally, if you would like to put your child on your health insurance plan, then you may also need to establish paternity. Many health insurance companies will not cover your children unless you are listed on their birth certificate as the father.
Establishing paternity can be a complex process in Florida depending on your situation. You’ll want to be sure that you go about it right because of its far-reaching legal effects. The Joseph Firm, P.A. is a well-respected and experienced family law firm who helps clients in cases of paternity, adoption, divorce, child custody, child support and more. Our Florida paternity lawyers can explain your options and help you manage the paternity process in an efficient and effective manner. For more information about how we can assist you, reach out to The Joseph Firm, P.A. by calling (305) 501-0992 or contacting us online.