Paternity is a legal issue that involves the determination of a child’s biological father, which is confirmed through a genetic (DNA) test. In family law, this often occurs when the mother of a child files suit against a man she believes is the biological father of a child in order to obtain child support. But a man who suspects that he is the biological father of a child can also establish paternity to petition for visitation, and for the right to have an equal say in how the child is raised. Paternity law can be complex and emotional, and for this reason, many people hire an experienced family lawyer to handle all the legal aspects of these cases.
Two Methods of Establishing Paternity
There are two ways that paternity can be established: Voluntary acknowledgement or court-ordered legal process. Voluntary acknowledgement occurs when a man signs a legal form confirming that he is the father of a child and files that form in a family court. Voluntary acknowledgement can be done prior to a child’s birth, at the time of the child’s birth, or at any time after the child is born.
Paternity that is done through a court-ordered legal process typically requires genetic (DNA) testing to determine that the man involved in the petition is indeed the father of a child. It’s important to remember that in a paternity suit, the state can order genetic testing even if the man involved in the suit refuses to submit to the test.
Who Can File A Paternity Claim?
Under Florida law, a paternity claim can be filed by:
- The mother of the child
- A man who believes he is the biological father of a child
- The child – typically the claim is filed by a family lawyer
- Florida Department of Revenue Child Support Program
Why Is Establishing Paternity So Important?
A woman who files a paternity suit against a man is usually seeking some type of child support to help take care of that child’s need. Without establishing paternity, the woman filing the claim would not have any legal standing to compel the man involved to pay child support. Furthermore, paternity would also entitle the child to inheritance from the father’s estate, and may entitle that child to additional benefits if the father is a military veteran or is disabled.
For a man who suspects he is the biological father of a child, paternity would provide him with the legal means to petition for visitation rights, have a voice in how the child is raised, or to even file for custody. Family court judges base all of their paternity decisions on what is in the best interests of the child, so they may decide that the opportunity for a child to have a relationship with the biological father is beneficial.
What Happens After Paternity Is Established?
After paternity is established, the court will order the parents to create a Parenting Plan, which is an agreement regarding major issues such as child support, child custody, visitation and how major decisions about the child’s life will be decided.
If the parents cannot create an agreement, the court will order them to undergo mediation with a neutral third party to resolve their differences. If mediation fails, the case proceeds to trial.
Help For Complex Legal Issues
Paternity doesn’t end after confirmation is made through a genetic test. In fact, the most challenging aspect of paternity law is creating a parenting plan that all sides find fair. That is why an experienced family law firm can provide legal expertise to help you navigate through the challenges of paternity. If you need help in a paternity case, please contact The Law Office Eric C. Cheshire, P.A. at 561-295-3693 for a legal consultation.