By Florida Statute, it is clear that pregnant mother may file a paternity petition. Fla. Stat. § 742.011. Generally, in a Florida paternity petition, a petitioning party establishes the obligation of child support, establishes the legal Father’s rights and obligations, and can establish a parenting plan and time sharing (formerly known as “custody”) schedule. Also in a paternity petition, an award for all costs incident to pregnancy and child birth, if appropriate, is available to the complainant. Fla. Stat. § 742.031 (2019).
Looking to the above – does this mean that children yet to be born or unborn children can be the basis for a child support obligation, and or the costs that are incidental to being pregnant (i.e., doctor’s visits, hospital stays, etc.)?
Unfortunately, the answer for now tends to be a “no.” While a pregnant party may file a paternity petition, and request attorneys fees and all medical costs, a Court still has discretion to make such awards , “if appropriate.” So awards are not necessarily guaranteed to the petitioning party.
When looking to our state’s jurisprudence on the matter of support, despite the fact that a pregnant party may file a petition for paternity, a child must be born to receive support. Courts have found that, “It is well established that a child support obligation does not commence until the birth of the child. There is never a guarantee of a healthy pregnancy or delivery.” Department of Revenue o/b/o Wind v.Cochran, 253 So. 3d 731 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018). Further, Courts will not create an obligation prior to when a legal and or moral obligation is created. Dep't of Rev. ex rel. Carbonaro v. Carbonaro, 712 So. 2d 1225, 1227 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998). It is upon a child’s birth, that the legal obligation of both parents is created toward a child. Morris v. Swanson, 940 So. 2d 1256, 1257 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006)
While support is not necessarily available to children yet to be born, child support can be awarded on a temporary basis – that is, before the case has gone to a final trial. Upon a filing of a paternity case, a party may also move for temporary child support (this must also be supported with clear and convincing evidence of paternity on the basis of genetic or other evidence.) Fla. Stat. § 742.031 (2019).
Temporary awards of support may be granted to those parents desperately in need of support on a temporary basis before the trial. It is still not entirely clear if the Court will allow all costs, including medical and attorneys’ fees, on the temporary basis; child support is specifically named in statute. It is also worth noting that the procedures for “temporary hearings” differ amongst counties and there may be restrictions in yours.
However, our experienced Florida / Leon County Attorneys have experience in your area and many others, and can provide answers to many questions you may have about receiving support for your unborn / soon to be born children. Call our office today 800-822-5170 to setup an appointment to speak to one of our Florida / Leon County attorneys. Our firm also has offices in Panama City, Pensacola, Fort Walton and Orlando. We pride ourselves on our statewide family law practice.