When you suspect that you have fathered a child, it is not always as easy as you would think to establish paternity. Your circumstances at the time of the birth will dictate what you will need to do to establish paternity in Florida. Contacting the Virga Law Firm’sOrlando Paternity and Child Custody Attorney is the first step in your path to legal parenthood.
Paternity is one of the most complex legal topics in family law and one where the law surrounding the topic is evolving quickly. Paternity is established as a matter of law when the parties are married. A married father’s name will be automatically entered on the child’s birth certificate. However, when the parents are not married and a father wants to establish paternity and child custody rights, it is far from clear. It is imperative to know that one can establish paternity, become the legal father of the child, and be obligated to pay child support, but not to have child custody rights.
The analysis of any paternity case must start with Florida Statue Section 744.301:
Florida Statue Section 744.301 states: “The mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child and is entitled to primary residential care and custody of the child unless the court enters an order stating otherwise.” This means that the mother has not only full custodial rights but also has the sole ability to make decisions affecting the child. Therefore, a father must establish his paternity to be legally recognized as the child’s father and if the father wishes to have child custody rights and exercise his decision-making authority as a parent then he has to take legal actions.
Proving Paternity in Florida
Under Florida Law, there are three (3) ways that paternity can be proven:
Marriage and Paternity
Being married to your child’s mother at the time of birth is the easiest way to ensure that your parental rights are protected. When a child is born within the confines of a marriage, paternity of the child is not questioned. Even if the mother does not enter your name on the birth certificate, you still maintain your full parental rights- even in the face of divorce. If there is a question to the paternity of a child born during the marriage, the responsibility lies with the actual biological father. That individual will have to seek legal action to prove paternity and have your parental rights removed.
Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity and Execution of a Birth Certificate
If you are not married to your partner when your child is born, both parents can sign a voluntary acknowledgment that establishes paternity. You must both agree and sign the form. There must be a good faith basis to believe that you are actually the father. When executing a Florida birth certificate, a voluntary acknowledgment will also be completed to establish your paternity. Under this mechanism, paternity will be established, and the law will recognize that you are legally the child’s father but will not grant you any custodial right or decision-making ability for the child. You will need to have a court enter a child custody order establishing a parenting plan and timesharing schedule to have any enforceable rights. This can be achieved either through litigating your child custody case through the court system, or by the parties executing a settlement agreement, which includes a parenting plan, a timesharing schedule, and the court adopting the agreement into a final judgment establishing paternity and time sharing.
Administrative Child Support Hearings Establishing Paternity
In many Florida child custody cases, paternity is often established by an administrative child custody order. In these proceedings the Department of Revenue will bring an administrative case to determine paternity and establish child support obligation for a minor child. If paternity is at issue, then a DNA test may be ordered to determine paternity, and at the conclusion of the proceedings, paternity will be established as well as an order for child support. However, the administrative hearing officer cannot enter an enforceable parenting plan. So again, the administrative determination of paternity and child support will not grant you any custodial right or decision-making authority for the child.
There are cases where a child’s mother may not cooperate with the process for a multitude of reasons. This creates frustration but also makes the process more challenging. If you find yourself in this situation, you will want to consult your Orlando Child Custody attorney immediately. The court can then order genetic testing to prove your paternity. If your results are positive, then an Administrative Order of Paternity will be issued, granting you paternal rights. Your attorney will then help you to exercise those rights in whatever way you choose.
Court Ordered Paternity and Child Custody
There are cases where a child’s mother may not cooperate with the process for a multitude of reasons. This creates frustration but also makes the process more challenging. If you find yourself in this situation, you will want to consult one of the Orlando Child Custody Attorneys at The Virga Law Firm immediately. In these cases, a petition to determine paternity and child custody will be filed in the appropriate Florida circuit court. The court can then order genetic testing to prove your paternity and the court will enter a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule that will give you enforceable parental rights for you child.
In determining child custody arising from a paternity case, the court will analyze the case no differently than it would for two parents who were married. The court will apply Florida Statute Section 61.13 to determine what parenting plan and time-sharing schedule is in the best interest of the child. Furthermore, in majority of cases the court will also order shared parental responsibility unless one of the parties can show that shared parental responsibility is not in the child’s best interest and is detrimental to the child.
Contact The Virga Law Firm Today
In order to protect your parental rights, contact the Orlando child custody lawyers at The Virga Law Firm today. Our attorneys are committed to aggressively representing you in your paternity and child custody case. Contact us at 800-822-5170 today and schedule your consultation today.