Determining paternity is the process of finding out who the father of a child is for the purpose of establishing a legal relationship between child and father. Doing so can be beneficial to the child in many ways, and it can also benefit both parents. Paternity can be established in multiple different ways, each equally effective in benefitting the child. Determining paternity is especially necessary in situations where a child is born to parents who are not legally married.
How Can Paternity Be Established?
In some situations, paternity is established immediately upon birth. This happens when a child is born to married parents who are certain the husband is the biological father. This remains true even if the couple was not married at the time of conception. The husband is always considered the legal father of a child born to his wife. This happens regardless of who the biological father is. If it is discovered later that the husband is not the biological father of the child in question, efforts can be taken to disestablish his paternity over the child if that is desired.
Establishing paternity becomes more complicated when a child is born outside of a marriage or when the mother had multiple partners around the time the child was conceived. In these cases, there are 3 ways that paternity can be established.
Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment
For some parents who are not married, there will not be a dispute or disagreement regarding the paternity of the newborn child. When that is the case, both parents can fill out a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form. This is a legally binding document that allows both the mother and father to state that the father voluntarily accepts legal responsibility over the child or children in question.
Completing this form grants the legal father all rights and responsibilities that come with fatherhood. Some examples of what this form grants include:
- The right to visitation with the child
- The right to develop a paternal relationship with the child
- The right to have a say in how the child is raised
- The responsibility to meet the child’s needs, such as clothing, food, housing, schooling, etc.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity forms become legally binding 60 days after they have been signed. At this point, the acknowledgment can no longer be revoked, unless it was signed while either party was under duress.
If a child is born outside of a marriage and no one voluntarily steps forward to claim paternity, it can be established through genetic testing. This testing can be facilitated through the Florida Department of Revenue, which offers this testing because it pertains to child support issues.
For this process to take place, all parties (mother, child, and potential father) must submit genetic samples at individual appointments. These samples will be collected in the presence of a laboratory employee and then shipped to a laboratory that specifically analyzes genetic samples. It can take up to 2 weeks for results to be returned, and once they are, the Florida Department of Revenue will inform the mother and potential father via mail.
If it turns out the man in question is the father of the child, the Department of Revenue will also issue an Administrative Order of Paternity on his behalf. This order is just as enforceable as one issued by a judge. Establishing paternity this way is far less expensive and usually faster than doing so through the courts.
If either party (mother or potential father) refuse to establish paternity through voluntary genetic testing, the courts can force them to do so. Paternity lawsuits can be brought by:
- The child’s mother
- The man who has reason to believe he is the child’s father
- A lawyer working on behalf of the child in question
- The Department of Revenue
If the case is brought by the Department of Revenue, it is done strictly to assist in making child support orders. This type of case will not end with the courts giving the father visitation or making any other orders regarding the child’s life.
However, if the case is brought on by either parent, the court will be able to help the father obtain parenting time and address other issues regarding the way the child is raised. The courts will also be able to enforce genetic testing to determine whether the person in question is the child’s father; however, the court can use other evidence as well. If the man claimed the child in social media posts, for example, they can be used as evidence in court that he should be considered the child’s legal father.
Why Is Determining Paternity Beneficial?
Determining who a child’s father is may seem like an intimidating or uncomfortable process, however, doing so can be beneficial to the child both immediately and long-term. These benefits can also extend to both parents. Some of the main benefits include:
- Well-rounded medical history: If a child knows who their father is, they may be able to learn more about their family’s medical history. This knowledge can help them know whether they should be tested for certain diseases or conditions that may be common on their father’s side of the family.
- Financial benefits: Learning who a child’s father is can open up access to several financial benefits. If the child’s father is a veteran of the U.S. military or if their father is disabled, the child may be eligible for certain benefits. Establishing paternity also allows for child support payments to begin. Identifying a child’s father will provide them with more resources overall. For example, the child may have a right to an inheritance from their father’s estate in the event of his death.
- Healthcare: If the child’s father receives healthcare benefits through work, the child may be eligible to join his plan and receive the same benefits.
- Sense of self: Determining who a child’s father is will allow that child to connect to that side of themselves and will stop them from wondering for the rest of their lives. In addition, some fathers will end up playing an active role in their child’s life, which is beneficial to children for many reasons. Fathers who are present in their children’s lives can have positive impacts on their emotional development.
Contact a Paternity Attorney Today
If you are attempting to establish paternity over your child or a child you believe is yours and need legal advice, contact the Miami Paternity attorneys at Orshan, Spann & Fernandez-Mesa today. We understand that family law matters can be stressful and emotional, which is why we will fight tirelessly on your behalf to help you determine paternity. With our reputation for success as one of South Florida’s top family law firms, you can trust that we will handle your case with care and attention to detail. Contact us online or reach out at (305) 853-9161 for a confidential consultation.