Generally, paternity fraud occurs when a father is misidentified as the biological or legal father of a child. Unfortunately, this can occur intentionally or unintentionally by parties and can result in significant emotional and financial consequences. If you believe you have been a victim of paternity fraud contact an Orlando Child Custody Attorney today to discuss your rights and the legal actions that may need to be taken.
There are a few different ways a man can be misidentified as the father of a child. Before being labeled as the legal or biological father, it is important to determine what legal classification a man falls under in relation to the child. Acknowledged fathers are those who voluntarily admit to being the unmarried father of the child. Presumed fathers were married to the mother of the child at the time of conception or birth, were married after the child was born and signed the birth certificate, attempted to marry the mother after the child was born or conceived, or he has openly held the child out as his own and taken active steps to care for the child. Unmarried and equitable fathers have no rights to the child unless they seek to become the presumed father through a paternity action.
With acknowledged and presumed fathers, there are many different ways paternity fraud can occur. For instance, if you were married at the time of conception or birth of the child, under Florida law the child is presumed to be your biological child. A DNA test is not required to establish a biological connection, therefore, even if the child is not yours biologically, they are legally tied to you. When a child is born to an unmarried woman, a father may be acknowledged or presumed by signing an affidavit, seeking a relationship with the child, or marrying the mother of the child. Each of these items also do not require a paternity test to determine the biological ties between the father and child. Therefore, in many cases the men are basing their determination on the promises of the mother.
The main requirement after paternity is established is that the legal father is financially responsible for the child, whether or not they are biologically connected. Therefore, the father may be held responsible for child support lasting 18 plus years and investing in the life of a child that he later finds out was not his own. This financial responsibility and emotional bond built between the child and father can result in a devastating loss for both child and father if later discovered that they share no biological connection. Therefore, Florida courts have established penalties for paternity fraud. Under Florida Statute 742.108, “any person who knowingly and willfully provides false information to the sheriff’s office, other law enforcement agency, or governmental agency, or under oath regarding the paternity of a child in conjunction with an application for, or the receipt of, public assistance for a dependent child commits a misdemeanor of the second degree,… in addition to… any other civil or criminal penalties for perjury or making false statements which are applicable under other provisions of law.” Although Florida seeks to ensure a child has two parental figures in their life, they also seek to hold those responsible who falsely report paternity to a court or government agency for the injuries that may result to the minor child and parent.
Paternity fraud is not an act that should be taken lightly and should be addressed as soon as discovered to ensure your rights are protected and to minimize the emotional damage this fraud can bring. Therefore, if you fear that you have been a victim of paternity fraud contact an experienced Orlando Child Custody Attorney today to discuss your options.
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