Who and When Should a Paternity Action be Filed?


Whether you are the mother of a child, the punitive father, or an illegitimate child where no paternity has been established, you may wish to file a paternity action. However, in many legal cases, an action may be barred after a certain period of time has elapsed, this is known as the statute of limitations. Paternity actions are unique with their involvement of statute of limitations. Therefore, it is important to bring your case to a knowledgeable attorney to assess your action and if there are timelines you should adhere to.

One of the first important points to note regarding a paternity action is who may bring these claims. It is a common misconception that only a presumed father may bring a court action to legally establish their rights to a child. However, a paternity action can be filed by a number of parties including: a punitive or presumed father, or a man who believes he may have, legal right to a child, a mother of a child who’s paternity has not been established, Florida’s Department of Revenue, or the child who’s paternity has not been established.

If you fall within one of these statutorily accepted parties, you will then need to assess if you meet the time constraints presented under Florida law. A paternity action may be brought any time before the birth of the child, with final adjudication of paternity occurring after the birth of the child has occurred. Further, paternity actions used to be limited to filing only when the child was born illegitimate, or out of wedlock. However, recent court rulings have provided a punitive father, of a child standing to challenge the parentage of the child, even if the child was born during an intact marriage, therefore, you do not have to postpone your filing until the father disestablishes their paternity. However, there is a statute of limitations for these actions. Florida Statute § 95.11(3)(b) provides, that the statute of limitations is four years for, “[a]n action relating to the determination of paternity, with the time running from the date the child reaches the age of majority.” With Florida assessing the age of majority as 18, this is generally before the child’s 22nd birthday.

This statute of limitations came under scrutiny in 2016, when the Third District Court of Appeal dismissed a paternity action brought against a decedent’s estate. Rose v. Sonson, 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 13408 (Fla. 3d DCA Sep. 7, 2016). The putative child brought a claim against the putative father’s estate during probate procedures. However, when the child brought the action, he was well beyond the statute of limitations period of 4 years after reaching the age of majority. Therefore, the claim was properly dismissed. The issue that many run into with the statute of limitations requirement is their lack of knowledge of the time constraints. Without this understanding, the individual seeking paternity establishment may lose a significant amount of rights and financial support.

Therefore, the statute of limitations can be a significant hindrance to many legal actions, therefore, it is an important aspect to consider. If you are bringing a paternity action, it is important to discuss with your family law attorney the time constraints for your specific action. Contact a lawyer today to discuss your unique 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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