Paternity Attorneys Serving Jacksonville, Florida
There are several ways to establish paternity in Florida. A father who is not married to the mother at the time his child is born, and who does not sign an “acknowledgment of paternity” upon the birth of the child, must petition the court to establish “legal paternity” before he can pursue his parental rights to time-sharing or visitation, and joint custody or joint parenting. If you have question on how to establish paternity call an experienced Jacksonville paternity lawyer at The Law Office of A. Sam Jubran, P.A.
Begin a Paternity Claim
First things first-It is very important that a putative father register his claim for paternity with the Florida Department of Health putative father registry right away. The law requires registration and serves to ensure the putative father’s notice of any legal proceedings related to his biological child. Unmarried biological fathers are treated differently than married fathers. A married father is the child’s legal father even if there is no biological relationship, while an unwed biological father may have no standing to even pursue his rights to parenting and time-sharing. If you need more information on registering a claim with the putative father registry call the experienced paternity lawyers who can answer your questions.
Biological vs. Legal Father
It’s important to understand that there is a difference between a biological and legal father. Legal fatherhood can be established by adoption. A legal father may have rights of access and decision-making power over a child.
The biological father, on the other hand, can exist without claiming or acknowledging any of these rights or responsibilities. This happens predominantly in cases where the mother is able to support herself without the use of public services. These public services may refer the case to the Florida Department of Revenue’s Child Support Program. This agency will initiate an action against an “alleged” father or the man who the mother claims is the father. They will take DNA from the father, mother, and child to establish paternity. The purpose of this is to establish that the father owes the mother child support payments.
How Does the Court Establish Paternity?
Any child who is born to a married couple, the courts will assume to be the child of the husband. In cases where the mother and father are unmarried, the child’s paternity must be established. There are two ways that this can happen. Either the father voluntarily agrees that the child is his or the mother or a representative of the child must have the court issue an order for a DNA test.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity
This is, of course, the easier of the two options. The father and mother simply sign a “Voluntary acknowledgment of Paternity” form under oath. They then attest that the child does, in fact, belong to them. After 60 days, the acknowledgment is final. The mother or the father cannot revoke it, unless one party can prove that they were under duress when they signed the document. In other words, the parent must be able to prove either coercion or fraud.
Paternity Proven by Court Order
In some cases, either the mother or father will deny that the child belongs to the father. In this case, the court will determine, using a DNA test, who is the father of the child. Any of the following individuals can start the process:
- The child’s mother,
- A man who believes that he is the father,
- A legal representative of the child, or
- Florida’s Department of Child Support Services.
Establishing Paternity Does Not Immediately Grant Access to the Child
Establishing paternity is a completely separate action from shared visiting time or even having basic access to the child. If the Florida Department of Child Support Services brings the court action, they can only force a parent to provide child support to the mother.
In cases where the father and mother voluntarily agree to paternity or either parent brings the case in circuit court, the judge can decide other aspects of the child’s situation as well. Beyond child support, a judge can decide on what kind of access the father will have with the child. In some cases, it may not be appropriate for the father to have any access at all. In other cases, it might be appropriate for the father to take full custody or have decision-making power over the child. Neither situation bears any impact on the father’s duty to provide child support for the mother.
What If You Are Not the Father But Were Established During Marriage?
It does sometimes happen that a legal father who was considered the father vis a vis being married to the mother at the time, turns out not to be the father biologically.
For example, let’s say that husband and wife have separated and the wife is living with her new boyfriend. She gets pregnant and the child biologically belongs to the boyfriend. In Florida, because the woman is still in a marriage to her husband, the child technically is his. In other words, the law presumes the husband to be the father of the child. This is true even when it’s apparent to everyone that he isn’t. These laws are leftover from a time before paternity tests existed. They have never been updated to account for new technology.
Now, what happens if wife and husband are still living together and husband doesn’t immediately realize that the child doesn’t belong to him? This is where things can get a bit tricky. In a case like this, an experienced paternity attorney can help you revoke support for the child.
Jacksonville Paternity Rights
If you are the father of a child with whom you do not habitually reside overnight because your relationship with the child’s mother is not an “in-tact” relationship, then it is critical that you establish enforceable parental rights towards your child and that you do so immediately. Ultimately, parents have a fundamental right to raise their own children. The difference here is that an unwed biological father must first establish his parental rights in order for him to enforce them against the mother, whereas a married father has enforceable rights by virtue of his marital status.
Your Paternity Obligations
Obligation to support begins at birth and can be retroactively established.
For example, Rita and Ben never married but became involved in a 10-year relationship. They conceived a child, Misty, who is now five years-of-age. Rita and Ben separated when Misty was 2 years old, but neither of them petitioned to establish paternity. Moreover, Ben was out of the country when Misty was born and never signed any acknowledgment of paternity.
In this scenario, Ben has no enforceable parental rights until he petitions the court to establish them. Once the court adjudicates Ben to be Misty’s father, then the court can award Ben time-sharing and parenting rights. The court can also establish Ben’s financial obligation to pay child support. In the meantime if Rita applies for benefits from the state of Florida then the state may administratively establish paternity as well as Ben’s child support obligation.
However, the state will not establish Ben’s time-sharing or parenting rights. And those time-sharing and parenting rights will significantly impact the amount of Ben’s child support obligations under the law. Unless terminated by court of proper jurisdiction, all fathers arguably have parental rights but not all fathers are created equally. Fact is that under the law it can also be interpreted that not all children are either.
A Jacksonville Paternity Lawyer Can Help You Establish Your Parental Rights
If you or someone you know is an unwed biological father then you should consult with, or encourage them to consult with, a family law lawyer immediately. There is a father’s rights movement in Florida and parenting laws have become more liberal in favor of granting fathers custody or joint custody of their children. You should immediately consult with and hire an experienced Jacksonville paternity lawyer who specializes in handling paternity cases. If you are in this situation, you will most definitely need to file a petition in Florida to establish your parental rights.
Be the First to File a Paternity Claim
The Florida legislature has recently considered attempts to create a presumption that equal time sharing on a 50-50 basis in Florida is in the minor’s best interest. Another reason why you should immediately consult with an attorney is because venue in a paternity action may be proper in more than one place. You need to know well in advance the venue that is most suitable to your case.
The first person who files is the Petitioner. The Petitioner has the choice of “venue” or forum which is very important when there is more than one proper venue. For example, the paternity statute governs venue in paternity actions. The paternity statute provides that venue is proper in the county in which either the Petitioner or the Respondent resides. If both parents reside in different counties then either county is a proper venue. This allows a limited opportunity for the Petitioner to select the forum he or she feels is best for their case. In the event the minor child does not habitually reside in the county chosen or either of the counties then there may even be other jurisdictional issues that should be considered.
Contact a Jacksonville Paternity Lawyer Today for Your Free Paternity Consultation
In these cases consulting with experienced paternity lawyers is critical. An experienced attorney at The Law Office of A. Sam Jubran, P.A. can make a huge difference not only in the quality of relationship a father would expect to have with his child, but also in a father’s court ordered obligation to pay child support. Hire the most experienced attorney you can afford, and consider it an investment in your future.
Remember, when you need help with FAMILY LAW, choose FAMILY VALUES. Contact us and hire a Board Certified Specialist in Marital and Family Law to help you with your paternity case in Florida.