When a married couple has a child, it is assumed they are the biological parents of that child. However, the same is not the case for unmarried couples. Establishing paternity can name a child’s biological father as their legal father. It also gives the father certain rights, like visitation. However, it also gives them responsibilities, such as making child support payments. What are the benefits of establishing paternity, and are there any cons?
How Paternity is Established
Paternity can be established in a couple different ways in the state of Florida. The method used to establish paternity depends on whether all parties agree on who the father is.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity
Paternity can be established through a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form if a child is born to unwed parents who agree on who the father is. Both the mother and supposed father must sign the document. They state under oath that the man is the child’s true legal father by doing so.
When a father fills out this form, he accepts all the legal responsibilities that come with parenthood. He can develop a paternal relationship with the child, have a say in how the child is raised, and must provide for the child. The form becomes legally binding 60 days after it has been signed. They can only be reversed if it is discovered someone was forced to sign the form.
If a baby is born to an unwed couple and no one is positive who the father is, genetic testing can be performed to determine the biological father. This testing can be performed through the Florida Department of Revenue. They provide this service as it helps them determine who should be responsible for making child support payments.
All parties involved need to submit DNA samples. This includes the mother, potential father, and child. The samples are then sent to a laboratory for comparison. If the results show a match between the child’s DNA and father’s DNA, the Department of Revenue will notify the appropriate parties. The father’s name will be added to the birth certificate, and he will become responsible for the child legally.
When paternity is established this way, it allows single mothers to collect child support. However, if the father ends up desiring parenting time, he will need to create a case with the courts.
When a married woman gives birth, it is automatically assumed her husband is the child’s father. The hospital will add his name to the birth certificate, and he will be legally responsible for the child from birth. This applies to couples that were not married when the child was conceived.
Why Should I Establish Paternity?
Establishing paternity is beneficial for many reasons. It benefits all the parties involved, including the child, mother, and father. Some of the main reasons people choose to establish paternity include:
- Important medical history: When paternity is established and a child knows who their biological father is, they can access their father’s medical history. This is beneficial because it allows them to discover more about their own health. They can learn whether they have high chances for certain diseases, which could be helpful in an emergency.
- Financial benefits: Children of veterans and disabled people have access to government benefits other children do not. A person can only discover this information on their father’s side if paternity is established. A child can also be eligible to enroll in their father’s health insurance plan. A child will overall be better financially supported if paternity is established over them.
- Giving them identity: A child’s development can be improved greatly when they know who both of their parents are. Knowing who their father is can give them knowledge about their family history, their ethnicity, and overall provide them with a sense of identity.
- Giving fathers a say: A father may not have a say in the way their child is raised if they are not legally responsible for their child. Education, religion, and healthcare decisions are a few elements fathers who establish paternity can be involved in concerning their child.
- Building a relationship: Establishing paternity provides fathers with the opportunity to build a relationship with their child. Father figures are extremely beneficial to child development.
Are There Downsides to Establishing Paternity?
For some people, becoming legally responsible for a child does not sound desirable. For the mother, they may not want to share parenting time. In such cases, they should be aware of what establishing paternity may require of them.
- Paternity may result in joint custody: This can be seen as a positive or a negative depending on the context of an individual situation. A new custody arrangement may be created once paternity is established. Such an arrangement will give the father more responsibility and force the mother to part with her child for predetermined periods of time.
- Paternity results in child support payments: Fathers become responsible for child support once paternity is established. This means they must pay a certain amount of money to the mother each week, unless they are the custodial parent. Failure to make child support payments is a crime. The consequences can include additional fees, a suspended driver’s license, and more.
- Potential legal issues: When paternity is established, the father becomes responsible until their child reaches the age of majority. This means that they may have to get permission from the court to move out of state. If the mother wants to give custody to a more present father figure, they may have to endure a lengthy and complicated legal process.
We Assist with Paternity Issues
The Law Office of Russell S. Hershkowitz, LLC can help you with your paternity issues. Reach out to us if you’re looking to establish paternity over a child or need your rights protected in a paternity action. Our skilled attorney has more than 25 years of legal experience. He will walk you through the process with compassion while protecting your rights. Contact us today at (407) 753-4111 or through our online contact form.