How to establish paternity in Florida

One of the questions asked by many parents is “how do I establish paternity?” Establishing paternity is a requirement in order to establish the rights and responsibilities of a father. The first obstacle would be to determine if the father has established paternity before filing any documents with the court.

How does one determine if the father’s paternity has been established? First, if the child was born while the parents are married, then the husband is the legal father, regardless if he is the actual biological father or not. There is no need to take any legal action to establish the legal paternity in this case.

If the parents are not married, there are other legal avenues to establish paternity. One way is for both parents to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital when the child is born. This form will have both parents’ information, and be sent to the Florida Department of Health Office of Vital Statistics for recording.

However, what happens if the father is not present at the child’s birth, and does not sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity? At this point, the second avenue to take would be to file a Petition to Establish Paternity in the Circuit Court in the county where either of the parents reside, if the parents reside in different counties.

After the filing and service of the Petition, it is a matter of the other parent responding so that the parties and court can move onto establishing paternity either by both parents’ admission, or by a paternity test. Once legal paternity of the father has been established, then the Court and the parents will move onto child support and visitation issues. When filing the Petition, it is best to provide a proposed Parenting Plan, or visitation schedule, so that you can state to the Court what visitation schedule works best for you. Additionally, both parents have to provide their income information, as well as information regarding health insurance and medical costs, and childcare expenses so that child support can be properly calculated.

An experienced family law attorney will know what paperwork to file with the court, how to serve the other parent, and how to obtain the other parent’s income information so that child support can be properly calculated. An experienced family law attorney will also know what documents and information to get from the client in order to proceed with the case, as well as negotiate on your behalf in mediation.

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