Florida paternity proceedings to legally establish the father of a child

Establishing the legal father of a child can be crucially important for all involved and Florida law sets out detailed requirements for paternity suits.

When an unmarried woman has a child in Florida and the biological father does not legally acknowledge paternity, she, or sometimes a state agency on her behalf, may file a court paternity proceeding against the man she believes to be the father. If a man is legally established to be the father in the Florida paternity action, he may be ordered to pay child support.

A man found to be the father in a paternity action may also be ordered by the judge to pay the mother's legal fees, court costs, pregnancy and childbirth expenses and more.

He also may gain custody or visitation rights to the child. The child in return would gain inheritance and other property rights through his or her father.

On the other hand, a paternity action may land in Florida court in a different way. A man who believes he is the father of a child may file the proceeding because he wants to legally establish his parentage, acknowledge the child, provide for him or her, or be allowed parenting time to develop a parent-child relationship.

Legal counsel important

In either of these scenarios, an unmarried mother or father in Florida considering a paternity action should speak with an experienced family lawyer to understand the parent's legal rights in relation to the child and the child's to each parent, financial implications of establishing the legal father, legal duties of parenthood, custody and visitation laws and more.

In addition, skilled legal counsel is important because the procedural requirements of a paternity suit in Florida court are complicated, whether a parent is bringing or responding to the matter. For example, there are deadlines to meet, and crucial notice and service requirements. The court pleadings must be carefully crafted to not only meet legal specifications, but also to assert the parent's best case.

A knowledgeable paternity attorney can also represent a parent at hearings in the judge's chambers.

Scientific testing

Based on the evidence, either party may ask the judge to order scientifically accepted paternity testing by a qualified lab or the judge may order such testing on his or her own. The Florida paternity statutes require that the test results and the laboratory's conclusions be filed in court. The law provides specific procedures for objecting to the test. Either party may present expert witnesses to support or refute the test, and the court may order a second test at the "reasonable request of a party."

Finally, the Florida statute explains detailed legal requirements for how a test that finds the probability of paternity to be at least 95 percent is handled in court. On the other hand, a test that shows that the man cannot scientifically be the father requires the judge to dismiss the case. Florida law also provides a proceeding to "disestablish" paternity in light of new information.

Any Florida man or woman facing legal issues related to a child's paternity should consult with a family lawyer to understand the options going forward.

Keywords: Florida, paternity, father, mother