How to Establish Paternity in Florida
If you are a father to a child born out of wedlock, establishing legal paternity has a number of benefits. For example, only legal fathers have a right to receive information about the child’s development. In many jurisdictions, a mother can even put a child up for adoption without notifying a probable father, but notice must go to a legal father. Additionally, paternity paperwork enables doctors to view all the child’s family medical history, and not just part of it.
Perhaps most importantly, only legal fathers can be designated as the child’s residential custodian, at least in most cases. If such a move might be in your future, a paternity action is a necessary foundation.
For the most part, the legal paternity process is rather straightforward. Many times, a Maitland family law attorney can obtain a court order without a hearing. Additionally, there are ways to obtain paternity status without going to court at all. An attorney not only makes this process easier. If things go sideways, you have a strong advocate who is ready to fight for you.
If your name is on the birth certificate, that’s not enough to establish legal paternity. However, signing the birth certificate is sufficient, at least in most cases. Additionally, most hospitals have VAP (Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity) forms available. Filing this form with the Department of Vital Statistics makes it even easier to establish paternity outside a court setting.
For various reasons, working with the hospital is not always a practical option. However, working with the Child Support Office or other administrative agency is almost always a possibility. These bureaucrats are usually more than willing to work with putative fathers. This help usually includes filing paperwork and arranging for a DNA or blood test if needed. More on that below.
This approach has some other benefits. Most fathers financially support their children, whether there is a court order in place or not. But if there is an administrative order, fathers receive proper credit for the support they pay. In fact, the payment record is usually conclusive proof of amounts and dates paid.
Both these types of administrative procedure are very streamlined. However, they do not include any provisions regarding custody or visitation. Only a court order can set these guidelines. Without a parenting plan, the mother calls all the shots in this area.
A court can modify, extend, or enforce these provisions later. That’s true even if the mother relocates with the child to another county in Florida or even another state.
Generally, the mother does not contest court paternity proceedings. If she does, most Florida courts order HLA tests or DNA swabs.
Human Leukocyte Antigen testing is also known as tissue typing. Hospitals use this reliable test to determine organ donor compatibility. These blood tests count antigens on cells. Antigens are a unique part of the body’s immune system. No one has the same pattern.
Legally, if the match probability exceeds 95 percent, there is a rebuttable presumption of paternity.
Blood tests are invasive and rather expensive, but they are also relatively easy to administer, even to newborns. DNA swabs are noninvasive and less expensive, but it is difficult to get a newborn to hold still enough. There is no legal presumption in a DNA test, since the results are usually either all or nothing. The probability is typically 99.99 percent or 0.
Judges usually divide the cost of the test proportionally between the mother and father.
Contact a Hard-Working Lawyer
Fathers have several legal options when it comes to establishing paternity. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Maitland paternity attorney, contact The Troum Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Seminole County and nearby jurisdictions.