Establishing Paternity in Florida

movingkidsIn Florida, the biological fathers of children born out of wedlock have few, or no rights, regarding the children until the court establishes paternity.  Florida Statute 744.301 makes a child’s mother the natural guardian when a child is born to unmarried parents.  Mothers are deemed to have automatic custody when the child is born. This means a single mother has the parental responsibility to make important decisions regarding the child’s wellbeing and the child lives with the mother.  Generally, there are two methods for a biological father to gain parental rights. He can formally petition the court for these rights, or he may establish through an informal method with the mother’s consent.

Petitioning the court.

A father may take legal action to establish his parental rights. He can prove that he is the biological father and petition the court for parental rights. In Florida, a father can file a Petition to Establish Paternity to establish parental rights. The court may then issue a parenting plan, which will describe in detail how the mother and father will be responsible for the daily upbringing of the child, the time-sharing schedule, and methods of communication with the child.

After a court has established paternity through this method, the father has the same rights as he would if he were married to the child’s mother. The mother can also ask the court to order the father to pay child support. The amount of child support to be paid usually depends on the father’s income and guidelines established by state law.

What does it mean to be a putative father?

In Florida, the term “putative father” means an individual who is or may be the biological father of a child whose paternity has not been established and whose mother was unmarried when the child was conceived and born. In order to establish rights as a father, the putative father must file a notarized claim of paternity form with Florida’s Department of Health, which maintains the Florida Putative Father Registry. A claim of paternity may be filed at any time prior to the child’s birth, but a claim may not be filed after the date a petition is filed for termination of parental rights. Once a claim is filed with this department, the registrant expressly consents to submit to DNA testing upon the request of any party, the registrant, or the adoption entity with respect to the child referenced in the claim of paternity, according to Florida Statute 63.054.

A claim of paternity form does require the alleged father provide some information such as the name, address, date of birth and a physical description of the mother and the father. It also must provide the date, place, and location of conception of the child if known.

Alternate means of establishing paternity.

Florida does provide some alternate means to establish paternity under Florida Statute 742.10. Procedures for the determination of paternity for children born out of wedlock include:

  • The establishment of paternity at an adjudicatory hearing.
  • An affidavit acknowledging paternity or a stipulation of paternity that is executed by both parties and filed with the clerk of the court.
  • An affidavit or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity that is executed by both parties.
  • Paternity that is adjudicated by the Department of Revenue as provided in 409.256.

If no adjudicatory proceeding was held, a notarized voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, or a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity that is witnessed by two individuals and signed under penalty of perjury, shall create a rebuttable presumption of paternity. This means that Florida, unlike some other states, does not require Judicial or administrative proceedings to establish paternity.

This statute was enacted to allow parents to skip an expensive and lengthy trial process, and is the favorable method of establishing paternity when the parents are on good terms with each other. However, if the parents cannot agree on paternity or the terms of parental plan, the issue may have to be decided by the courts.

If you are a father who wishes to gain paternity in Florida, call the Law Office of David Goldman PLLC today at 904-685-1200.  Our experienced Jacksonville family law attorneys can help.

By Thomas Morrison, Candidate for Juris Doctorate

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