Paternity, also known as legal fatherhood, is when a father or mother tries to legally establish who is the father of a child or children. A document called a Petition To Establish Paternity is used to ask the court to establish paternity, a time-sharing schedule, and/or child support of a minor child or children. If the mother is married when the child is born, her husband is the legal father of the child and they do not need to do anything to prove paternity. If the mother is not married, the child does not have a legal father. In this situation getting paternity gives the child a legal father.
Sometimes the legal father is not the biological father of a child and the Court must determine which person should enjoy the rights to timesharing and the obligations of being a parent. If the either parent denies that the person named in the petition is the child's father, then the Court may order scientific testing to determine the biological father. The Court will not always order scientific testing and it is important to let the Court know whether the father signed an acknowledgement of paternity or is named as the father on the child's birth certificate.
Once the Court determines who is the child's father or the parents agree who the father is, the Court will often require a parenting plan which divides the duties and responsibilities of each parent in regard to the child.
Sometimes circumstances change after the agreement has been established. If circumstances change enough to warrant a modification request by the court, the law allows you to go back into court and ask that the original agreement be revised or modified. See the Child Support section for more information.
Paternity can be established in several ways including:
Paternity Acknowledgment — this is a document both parents sign agreeing to who the father of the child is. This can be signed in the hospital or later. Parents can get a paternity acknowledgment form online at the FloridaHealth.gov website under the Changes, Corrections And Amendments To Birth Records Forms dropdown menu. This is the quickest way to establish paternity.
Administrative Paternity Order — this is an order granted after a genetic test scientifically proves who the father of a child is. This does not require parents to go to court. The order is based on genetic test results and is just as legal as a judicial paternity order. This my take 3 months or more depending on how quickly the parents take the genetic test.
Judicial Paternity Order — this is an order granted by the court which looks at all the facts of a paternity case and issues a court order for paternity. The mother and the man she names as the father must appear at a court hearing and the court may order a genetic test. This may take 6 months or more depending on the court hearing schedule and the parents’ response to the court actions.
Why is getting paternity good for you and your child?
Many parents develop deep, loving bonds with their children. Parenthood can give both mothers and fathers a deep sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Legally identifying a child’s father gives a child certain legal rights and privileges. These include access to:
Health and life insurance benefits
Military or veterans’ benefits
The medical history
Financial support from both parents
Creation of emotional ties with two parents