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.
The procedure to disestablish paternity can be found in the Florida Statutes under section 742.18. Today, paternity is typically tested by comparing the DNA of the child and father and allowing a qualified laboratory to conduct a blood test to determine the mathematical probability that the putative father is the biological father of the child. However, there is case law that has interpreted Florida law to require a court to decide if it is in the child’s best interest to test paternity. Today, it is required that the court determine that the child’s best interests are served by conducting the test. In some cases, a child may have an individual they have known as their father since birth and the court could determine that a DNA test would not be in the child’s best interest.
As to whether or not it is feasible to consider disestablishing paternity in your particular case, you should seek out the advice of an experienced family law attorney who understands the nuances in the law that may affect you.
About the author:
Neil Weinreb is a Florida licensed attorney who has been practicing family law for over 15 years in North Florida. Mr. Weinreb works for the Law Office of David M. Goldman in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Weinreb has worked as an adjunct professor teaching law to paralegal students at Jones College in Jacksonville, Florida. You can contact Mr. Weinreb at the Law Office of David M. Goldman for a free initial consultation today to find out how having an experienced attorney on your side can help. Call (904) 685-1200 today. Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, 4115 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, Florida 32207. Telephone (904) 685-1200.