Establishing Paternity in Florida: Beyond DNA Tests
In the 1990s, DNA tests made it possible to prove with near complete certainty that two people were or were not close genetic relatives. Courts across the United States began to rely on DNA paternity tests as evidence that a certain man was or was not the biological father of a certain child. According to Florida family law, though, the biological father and the legal father are not necessarily the same person. For example, when a man legally adopts a child, he becomes the child’s legal father. Likewise, in the case of most children conceived through embryo donation or sperm donation, the legal father is the husband of the legal mother.
Why Establish Paternity?
Being a child’s legal father entitles you to certain legal rights that merely being involved in the child’s life, or even merely being the child’s biological father, does not. If you separate from the child’s mother, or even if you were never in a long-term relationship with her, you are entitled to a share of physical custody and legal custody of the child. Exactly what your rights to involvement with the child will be can be specified on a family by family basis in the parenting plan. “Physical custody” means time in which the child lives with you, and “legal custody” means the right to make certain decisions on the minor child’s behalf. Of course, with rights come obligations. The legal father must also bear certain financial responsibility for the child until he or she reaches legal adulthood. If you are not living with the child’s mother, the court could require you to pay child support.
Ways to Establish Legal Paternity
- Marriage to the Mother – If the mother is married at the time of the child’s birth, her husband is automatically granted the status of legal father.
- Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity – If the mother and father are not married to each other when the child is born, they can file a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity with the court, in which they request that the court grant the man the status of legal father. This document becomes legally binding 60 days after you file it.
- Default – If the child’s mother petitions to court to declare you the legal father, and you do not appear in court when requested to do so, the judge can declare you the legal father even in your absence.
- DNA Testing – If the other requests to have you declared the child’s legal father, but your refuse on the grounds that you believe that you are not the child’s biological father, the court can order a DNA test. The test consists of obtaining DNA samples from the child, the mother, and the alleged father. The sample can be obtained through a blood draw or by removing skin cells from the inside of the cheek with a cotton swab.
Contact Bundza & Rodriguez for Help with Paternity Issues
Being a father is about more than having 23 chromosomes in common with a child. Contact Bundza & Rodriguez in Daytona Beach, Florida to help you establish paternity or lack thereof.