When Should I Bring a Paternity Action?


In Florida, there are a few presumptions as to the paternity of a child. These include, when a child is born to a married woman, the husband is automatically deemed the father of the child. However, when a child is born to an unmarried woman, actions will need to be taken to formally establish the paternity of a child. Although some paternity is established through voluntary methods, others require legal paternity actions and court orders. In Florida, to protect your rights, it is encouraged to bring an action to determine proper paternity of a child and provide you with a legal order establishing your paternal connection to the child. However, these actions can become overwhelming and confusing. Therefore, we encourage you to seek aid from your child custody attorney to ensure your rights and your child are protected.

When a child is born to an unmarried woman, the parents may voluntarily acknowledge the paternity of the child at any point. However, voluntarily acknowledgement requires both the mother and alleged father to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity and there is a 60 day period where either parent may revoke the acknowledgment. This document is binding, signed under oath, and provides the father with all legal rights and responsibilities to the child, just as a court order would. However, if you are seeking to establish paternity of a child, and the other parent is unwilling to voluntarily acknowledge the paternity or revoked their acknowledgement you will need to proceed with a paternity action in court.

Under Florida law, a paternity action may be commenced by the mother, alleged father, or the Florida Department of Revenue. However, depending upon who is petitioning the court for a paternity determination, will control the extent to which legal rights to the child will be established. For example, if the Florida Department of Revenue is seeking a court order regarding the paternity of a child, they are doing so for the sole purpose of gaining a child support order. Therefore, even if paternity is established under their petition, the court will only enter a child support order, the father will not be granted any other legal rights such as visitation or custody. However, if the mother or alleged father has brought the paternity action, they must seek specific relief in their petition in addition to acknowledgment of the paternity, this may include establishing a timesharing plan or a child support order.

When a paternity action is filed, the court will determine parentage through testimonial evidence or genetic testing. Almost all cases require genetic testing, however, if you bring a paternity claim prior to the birth of a child the court will order the test, but the test and case will not be completed until after the birth of the child. Other evidence regarding paternity may also be presented. Such evidence includes the parent’s relationship, the relationship with other individuals, and the parent’s conduct regarding the paternity of the child.

Beyond the biological relation to a child, the legal connection is one that many fathers hold onto as they are able to have say and right in their child’s life. However, gaining these parental rights can be difficult and may involve a paternity action. Therefore, contact your attorney today to discuss your options and what steps are needed in your specific case.

Speaking to an attorney at our Pensacola office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us at (800) 822-5170 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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