Few people want to accept responsibility for a lifelong obligation that they were not responsible for. There is more than one way under Florida law to create a parental relationship with a child. Not all relationships in today’s society follow the model that involved a two parent family whereby the husband was the bread winner and the wife was a stay at home mother. Today, the norm has changed, and single parent households are much more commonplace than they were traditionally.
There are a number of ways that paternity can be established. When a woman is married and she becomes pregnant, there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father. This is true even where the husband could not physically have impregnated the wife. Section 742.10 of the Florida Statutes covers all of the ways that paternity of a child can be established. In short, paternity can be established when a married woman has a child, by consent, by court order, or by the legal father signing the birth certificate and notarized documents admitting paternity.
When a woman has a child out of wedlock and applies for governmental assistance, she may find that the agency or agencies she is applying through will require her to participate in a legal proceeding to establish the paternity of the child. In part, this is because the government wants to make the father responsible for supporting the child. Both parents are responsible for their child and a father or mother can be required to support their child until they reach majority. In some rare cases, they may have legal responsibility beyond the age of majority. The author of this article has handled numerous child support cases over the last 16 years and he has seen some people have their lives wrecked after they were required to pay child support (an Obligor). When an Obligor discovers that the child they are supporting is not theirs, disestablishing paternity may be an option for them. Although disestablishing paternity will terminate an ongoing support obligation, it will not extinguish any child support obligation which has accrued. Even when disestablishing paternity is successful, an otherwise Obligor may still have to pay a large arrearage.