Florida law assumes that when a couple is married and a woman gives birth, that her husband is the legal father. However, the state also differentiates legal and biological paternity. Often, the legal and biological father are the same person, though sometimes, they are not. When you are in a nontraditional situation looking to establish paternity, you may want a family law attorney to help you navigate the Florida laws.
Legal vs. Biological
A biological father has no rights or responsibilities unless he is also the legal father. A man can be the legal father, able to make decisions for the child, such as medical and schooling, without being the biological father if he has been named the legal father, either by default through marriage, when he adopts the child, or as the result of a court ruling.
There are many situations where either the mother or the biological father may wish to establish paternity. If the father and mother weren’t married at the time of birth, but both know and agree on parentage, they can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. After 60 days the courts accept this and legal paternity is established. However, it’s not always that simple. Let’s look at a few situations where a family law attorney may be of assistance.
Biological Father Wishes to Be the Legal Father
Perhaps you and the mother had a falling out before the child’s birth or the child is the result of an affair and she is married to someone else who is already assumed to be the child’s legal father. When you want the rights of visitation and parenting decisions, it must be legally established. This can be done through a petition to the court. Once your family law attorney submits the filing and the court approves it, you may also be responsible for child support in addition to the benefits of parenting decisions and time with the child.
Mother Wishes to Establish Legal Paternity
Perhaps you and the biological father were not married and you want the child to benefit from child support, veteran’s benefits, or even a future inheritance. If the father is not interested, perhaps because he’s married or for other reasons, even if you don’t have DNA evidence and the father refuses to cooperate, your attorney can file to establish legal paternity. This process cannot be completed until the child is born. The state can order that a DNA test be performed or you and your attorney can prove he has acknowledged he is the biological father; the court may agree. Keep in mind, once the legal father is named, he can file for visitation and other benefits that parenthood brings.
Family law can be complicated. If you are looking to establish paternity for your child, let the team at Wagstaff Law Office help. As experienced family law attorneys, let us navigate the entire process from establishing paternity, naming the legal father, setting up child support, to visitation and any other issues you may have. Call us today at (727) 584-8182 for your consultation.