How Is Paternity Established in Florida?
Paternity is established in Florida in two ways:
- 1. Voluntarily through a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form or
- 2. Through a court order filed by the mother, the alleged father, a legal representative of the child, or by the Florida Department of Child Support Services.
After the birth of the child, both parents can sign the Acknowledgement form listed above in which they formally acknowledge under oath that the father listed on the form is the child’s legal father. After signing the form, legal status of the father becomes final after 60 days have passed. After that, this legal status cannot be undone except in circumstances of fraud or coercion. However, this status does not immediately grant custody and timesharing nor does it formally establish a child support obligation. These rights and obligations must be established or ordered through the courts.
Without an Acknowledgment form, paternity can only be established through a court process. This is generally done through genetic or DNA testing. Once this testing establishes that the alleged father is the biological father, the court can then issue child support payments in accordance with state guidelines. The father can also then seek some form of joint custody and timesharing arrangements.
Many reasons exist for the establishment of paternity aside from the requirement for paternal financial support of the child. Many unmarried fathers wish to establish a meaningful and lasting relationship with their children despite that fact that they do not and may never share the child’s home with his or her mother.
Paternity can also provide helpful biological and medical information about the child that may be pertinent to his or her health both now and in the future. Additionally, the child may be eligible for government benefits based on the father’s disability or military history, may be eligible for health care benefits through the father, or may be entitled to family inheritances from the father or his side of the family. Paternity also allows the father to participate in legal custody related to making major decisions about the child’s education, health care, and more.