In Florida, courts can make decisions about child support, custody, visitation, ability to travel and many other aspects of a child’s life. Depending on your legal parental status, you may be able to influence the court’s ruling.
If you have first established your legal Paternity over the child then you have the right to help establish what those rules are. If your childs other parent is denying your right to help in making decisions raising your child, then our attorneys are here to fight for you.
We specialize in Florida Paternity Law and with that, understanding Paternity rights and claims can make the difference. Let us help you understand your Paternity Action and how you can assert the parental rights you have in the raising of your children.
WHAT HAPPENS IN A PATERNITY ACTION?
The court determines the legal father of a child. This may or may not be the biological father of the child.
To make the paternity determination, the court considers factors such as:
- Marriage of the mother
- Birth Certificate
- And most important of all, “The Best Interest of the Child”
If you and another person share a child or children and are no longer together, it is best to have the court sign an order establishing a time-sharing schedule and an agreement on child support. This will aid you and the other person in moving forward in raising and supporting your child/children. If you were never married, the process to do this is called a paternity action.
Why is a paternity action necessary?
Under Florida law, if the parties are not married at the time the child is born, paternity is necessary to guarantee the father his rights under the law (as well as child support obligations). If the father’s name is on the birth certificate, he is presumed to be the father, so testing is likely not necessary.
If the father’s name is not on the birth certificate, then DNA testing will be ordered. A paternity action is still needed to establish a time-sharing schedule and child support agreements.
What are the pros of getting paternity established?
The biggest pro of getting paternity established is having legal rights to the child if you are the father. Until paternity is established, the man does not have any legal rights to the child. This means the right to visit with the child or participate in any decision making involving the child.
Another pro to having paternity established is if you were previously put on a child support payment plan. (Yes, you can be ordered to pay child support even if paternity has not been established. If you were on the birth certificate and are therefore considered to be the biological father.)
You can possibly have the child support modified based on the amount of visitation that you have with the child. Child support is calculated using a formula which takes into consideration the income of both parties, as well as the amount of time that each party spends with the child.
What is the process?
- Petition filed – this informs the court about the situation and the other parent is served with the paperwork. In addition to the Petition, the parties must file a Financial Affidavit, Notice of Social Security Number (this will be kept private from anyone not involved in the case), and the Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act, and a proposed parenting plan.
- Answer filed – this is the other parent’s response to the petition. The other party tells the court and you if they agree or disagree with the things you said in the petition. A person has 20 days from the time they are served the petition to file the answer.
- DNA Test – If the other party contests paternity, the court may order a DNA test.
- Disclosure of documents – The parties must exchange documents under Mandatory Disclosure that deals with the finances they listed on the financial affidavit, including items such as tax returns, bank statements, and pay stubs.
- Mediation – Florida courts encourage parties to come to a resolution on their own, with the help of a mediator. At mediation, both parties are heard and the mediator tries to help them come to a solution on all or some issues. If an agreement is reached at mediation, a proposed order is sent to the judge and this is the last step.
- Trial – An opportunity for both parties to tell the court their position on any unresolved issues and the court will make a decision.
How long will it take?
The entire process will typically take about 6 months.