Why You Should Establish Paternity Rights and How to do it in Florida

Why You Should Establish Paternity Rights and How to do it in Florida

Susan R.  Miller
 | 
When you consider establishing paternity rights, you may think about a woman who wants to prove that a man is the father of her child so that she can get child support. But establishing paternity rights is a three-way street. It not only can benefit the woman and her child, but also the man who wants to be considered a child’s legal father, with all of the rights and responsibilities that go along with the title.

Under Florida law, if a child is born to a married couple, the husband is presumed to be the father and has equal legal rights to the child as the mother. But what about unmarried couples? Until paternity is established, an unmarried father in Florida has no legal rights, meaning that the mother has sole legal custody and all parental power over that child.

“This means that the mother can do anything without notifying the father. This includes giving the child up for adoption, moving to another country, changing the child’s name etc.,” says Stacy N. Beaulieu-Fawcett, a marital and family law attorney at Beaulieu Fawcett Law Group, PA in Florida. “The mother also can withhold timesharing from the father because he has no rights.”

There are a number of ways to establish paternity in Florida:

1. The quickest and easiest way to establish paternity when the parents are not married is for the father to fill out and sign a Paternity Acknowledgment form (also called the DH-511) in the hospital. Both parents must fill out and sign the form in front of a notary. As soon as the form is complete, the man becomes the legal father.

2. If the couple is not married when the child is born, but later marry, the husband becomes the legal father. However, the father must still complete The Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida form (DH-743A) or provide a written statement under oath to the Clerk of Court when they apply for their marriage license in order to get his name on the child’s birth certificate.

 3. From birth until the child reaches age 18, the mother and child's father can establish paternity if they fill out and sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity form (Form DH-432). Both parents must fill out and sign this form in the presence of two witnesses or a notary public.

 4. Paternity also can be established by filing a civil action in circuit court. A judge can establish paternity by court order. This is usually best used when other methods don’t work.

 There are a number of benefits to establishing paternity, particularly for the child. They include:
 
  • Having the father’s name on the birth certificate
  • The ability of the child to know who their father is
  • Obtaining information on a father’s medical history
  • Being able to obtain health or life insurance
  • Obtaining child and medical support
  • Obtaining various benefits including Social Security, Veterans, military allowances and inheritances
  • Ensures the child has a legal guardian should something happen to the mother and she is unwilling or unable to care for the child

An unmarried father who wants to ensure he has legal rights to a child should speak with an attorney before the child is born and before signing that child’s birth certificate. It’s important to know that if you sign the birth certificate and later find that the child is not yours, you can be held financially responsible for that child until you can prove that the child is not biologically yours.

If paternity has already been established, then a petition to disestablish paternity must be filed in the court.

“If there is any doubt, then he should not sign the birth certificate. Paternity tests are so easy to have done. It can be done by a swab in the child’s mouth and a swab in dad’s mouth. They can be done with at-home test kits or in a lab. It can be done with hair, blood, saliva. Given how easy it is to accomplish, if there is any doubt, get a test,” says Beaulieu-Fawcett.

Married or not, establishing paternity is something a father should do ASAP if he wants any rights in the future. It’s also important for a mother, so she can ensure that she receives the financial help she needs to raise the child – regardless of whether the father remains a part of that child’s life.

Paternity matters are unique to everyone’s situation, so hiring a qualified family law attorney is critical to ensuring that your rights, as well as the rights of your child are protected.


 

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
Susan R.  Miller

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