If a child is born to a single mother, the mother is the child’s only legal parent. If the mother wants to collect child support from the child’s father, she must initiate an action to establish her child’s paternity. A man who wishes to exercise parental rights over the child must formally establish his paternity.
Parental rights also come with significant obligations. When considering these issues, you should get advice from an experienced family lawyer. Whether you hope to establish your child’s paternity or deny you are a child’s father, a Boca Raton paternity lawyer could explain the legal process and stand by you as it unfolds.
Voluntarily Establishing Paternity
When an unmarried couple has a baby, they can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity to establish the father as the child’s legal parent. Both parents must sign the Acknowledgement in front of two witnesses and a notary. They file the Acknowledgement with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, and the child has two legal parents.
If the parents do not sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity, either parent could establish that a man is the child’s legal father by bringing a court proceeding. If the mother brings the proceeding, the man could admit he is the father, and the court will issue an order declaring the man the father. Florida Statutes 742.12 directs the court to order a DNA test if the man denies fathering the child. The court will also order a DNA test if the man seeks to establish his paternity and the mother denies he is the father.
Whenever a married woman gives birth, the law assumes her husband is the child’s father. If he is not, the mother, her husband, and the presumed father will be involved in establishing the child’s biological paternity. These cases can get complicated. Anyone in this situation should consult a Boca Raton paternity attorney about how to proceed.
Establish Paternity to Claim Child Support
If a woman wants child support from her child’s father, she must establish that he has a legal obligation to the child. She does this by bringing a paternity action in court, which a Boca Raton attorney could assist with.
As described above, the man could acknowledge paternity, and the court will issue an order giving the man the rights and obligations of parenthood. He will undergo a DNA test if he claims he is not the father. He will owe child support from the time of the child’s birth if the test confirms he is the father.
If the mother or child receives public assistance, the County Social Services agency could bring the action to establish paternity. If a man is confirmed to be the baby’s father, he could be liable to repay the agency for any benefits his child received.
Paternity and Parental Rights
Once paternity is established, the father has parental rights over the child. In most cases, parental rights give someone the right to timesharing (child custody/visitation) and decision-making authority.
However, the child’s best interest is the most important factor guiding a judge’s decisions on timesharing (child custody/visitation) issues. If the man has not been involved in the child’s life, the court could be reluctant to award him significant visitation on the basis of a paternity test. Note that the fact that a man pays child support does not entitle him to visitation or custody if contact with the child is not in the child’s best interests or if the man does not have any prior relationship with the child.
If the father wants a role in the child’s life, negotiating a plan to introduce him to the child and allow a relationship to develop at the child’s pace is often the best solution. Parents introducing a father into a child’s life should consult a Boca Raton attorney for resources and assistance in developing a plan that serves the child’s best interests.
Call a Boca Raton Paternity Attorney for Help
When a child’s parentage is uncertain or unacknowledged, there can be certain legal and personal complications. They do not benefit from the father’s guidance or the comfort of knowing one side of their family of origin. They cannot share in benefits the father might be entitled to or inherit from him. A child without a legal father cannot obtain a child support order.
Experienced attorney Charles D. Jamieson has extensive experience helping mothers and fathers in paternity matters. Call today to consult with a seasoned Boca Raton paternity lawyer about your case.