How to Establish Paternity in Florida

If you are married and your wife has a child, you are automatically presumed to be the legal father of that child under Florida law and will have all the parental rights and responsibilities that come with fatherhood. If you are unmarried, however, even if you are certain you are the father of a child, additional steps must be taken in order to ensure you have parental rights. In short, you must establish paternity before the state of Florida will recognize you as a legal father.

Establishing paternity not only gives you rights as a father, but also gives important rights of support to the child and the mother. Therefore, establishing paternity is often a positive step for everyone involved. There are several different ways to establish paternity for an unwed father in Florida, and an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney can help you decide which option is best for your particular situation.

Acknowledgment of Paternity

If the mother agrees that you are the father of her child, you may both complete and sign a legal form declaring as such. This form may be signed in the hospital at the time of birth or at a later date, though no other man may be listed as the father on the birth certificate. There are different required forms depending on whether you acknowledge paternity when the child is born or wait until later to do so.

Legitimation

If you and the mother of the child get married at a later date after the birth of the child, legitimation is the process by which a father may gain legal parental rights by updating the birth certificate of the child. In order to have the birth certificate updated, you must send certain required documentation to the Clerk of Court.

Administrative Order Based on Genetic Testing

The Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) offers free genetic testing to establish paternity and provides information regarding the process of genetic testing on its website. The mother, father, and child must undergo a test and, if the results show you are the biological father, the DOR may issue an administrative order for the Florida Office of Vital Statistics to update the birth certificate with your name. This method is often preferable because you may avoid a trip to court, however this method also requires the full cooperation of all parties.

Court Order

If the mother of your child is not cooperating, you may bring a paternity action in court. A mother or child may also bring a paternity action in court to prove you are the father (if you deny that you are). All parties must appear for a court hearing in front of a judge. The judge may or may not order a genetic test. If the judge decides you are the father, a court order will be issued for the birth certificate to be updated and you will receive all rights as legal father.

Contact a Ft. Lauderdale Paternity Lawyer

The method of establishing paternity that is right for you will depend on many factors, perhaps most importantly whether the mother is cooperating with the paternity claim. No matter what your circumstances may be, if you wish to establish paternity in Ft. Lauderdale or Boca Raton, experienced family law attorney Alan Burton can help you. Contact our office today for assistance.