In cases where a child is born outside of marriage, we are often called upon to help protect a client’s parental rights. Unfortunately, when a couple’s relationship deteriorates, fathers often find themselves at the mercy of the child’s mother until a timesharing schedule can be established. Until you file your paternity case, you will essentially be without recourse to enforce visitation and other rights with your child.
How is it determined?
In Florida, if the mother and father are not married when the child is born, the child’s father can fill out and sign the Paternity Acknowledgment form (also called the DH-511) in the hospital. Both parents must fill out and sign the form in the presence of a notary public provided by the hospital. This is the quickest and easiest way to establish paternity when the mother and father are not married. However, a timesharing schedule still needs to be established, which may require the court’s intervention.
Either the Father or the Mother will need to file a Petition for Determination of Paternity and Related Relief. This Petition requests that the Court:
- Legally establish paternity
- Establish child support
- Establish a time-sharing schedule and parental responsibility
- Request DNA testing, if applicable
Note: While paternity testing sounds scary, samples are generally collected from cheek “swabs” of each party – there are no needles or blood draws performed.
The paternity process is frequently started by either the biological father or the biological mother in establishing the rights of the parents and those of the child. These rights and benefits for the child are:
- Information on family medical history
- The child will know the identity of his or her father
- The father’s name is on the birth certificate
- Health or life insurance from either parent, if available
- Support from both parents, like child support and medical support
- Get Social Security or veteran’s benefits, military allowances and inheritances
Importantly, paternity gives both parents the legal right to:
- Get a child support order.
- Get a court order for shared time with the child.
- Have a say in decisions about the child, including on the child’s healthcare and education.
Disputing Paternity Allegations
Some men wish to assert their parental rights if they did father a child. Others need help disputing their alleged identification as fathers of children they do not believe they are responsible for. If you have signed the birth certificate, you are legally presumed to be the father of your child and have waived your rights to a paternity test (DNA test). If there is compelling evidence that you are not the father, you must file a Petition to Disestablish Paternity in order to be removed from the birth certificate. If not, we can help you obtain paternity testing (DNA testing) and protect your rights in court.