For any father who is involved in a Florida paternity action, it can be overwhelming to learn that you may have to pay not only child support, but retroactive child support and birth expenses for the child. Is there any way to limit the cost of what has to be paid to the mother for the time period prior to the paternity ordered being entered? The answer is: it’s possible.
Florida Statute 742.031 provides that in a paternity action, the court shall order the father to pay moneys sufficient to pay reasonable attorney’s fees, hospital or medical expenses, cost of confinement, and any other expenses incident to the birth of the child and to pay all costs of the proceeding, if appropriate. The statute provides that bills for pregnancy, child birth, and scientific testing are admissible as evidence without requiring third-party foundation testimony and shall constitute prima facie evidence of amounts incurred for such services or for testing on behalf of the child.
Where it can be tricky is what is “appropriate” as defined in the statute? In Dustan v. Weatherspoon, 505 So.2d 23 (Fla. 3rdDCA 1987), there was an appeal of a paternity action’s child support order. The mother alleged that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to require the child’s father to pay any portion of the expenses incidental to the birth of the minor child. The appellate court agreed with the mother. The court stated: “These rather minimal child support requirements seem to us the least that a father should be expected to do for his child, providing, of course, the father can afford it.”
In this case, the father had limited financial resources, but the appellate court found that he could clearly afford to pay for the expenses which are minimal in cost. The court looked at the mother’s financial situation and indicated that she had almost no financial resources and could not pay for such items. The appellate court reversed and remanded to require the father to pay for a reasonable portion of the child’s birth expenses.
There can be a small window to argue birth expenses would not be reasonable based on the parties’ financial circumstances, but an experienced Jacksonville family law attorney is needed to assess the income of the parties and the total expenses. Call the Law Office of David M. Goldman for a consultation.