Paternity & Child Support in Florida
All children should have parents that love and care for them; but increasingly single parents make up a significant portion of families. Florida law does not automatically assign paternity unless the parents are married to each other. Sometimes men who love their children are shut out of their lives, and sometimes women who are entitled to child support and other help with their children go without. If you are not married to your children’s father or mother, you may need to take the appropriate steps to ensure your rights and benefits as a parent.
Rights and Benefits of Paternity
Florida law confers several rights and advantages on those who accept paternity. The rewards for the child are many, not least of all being able to have a relationship with his or her father. Others include the right to collect insurance or other stipends, such as veterans’ benefits, and the right to be supported by both parents.
Parents, meanwhile, may obtain support orders for their children, as well as have a legal right to participate in decisions made for that child. If a man is not legally judged to be the father of a child, the mother cannot bring an action to compel child support. However, neither can he weigh in on issues like school choice, medical decisions, and the like. Having your name on your child’s birth certificate is not conclusive proof of paternity in Florida.
Establishing Paternity and Child Support
Florida recognizes four different ways to establish legal paternity of a child if the parents were not married to each other at the time of the child’s birth. Perhaps the easiest is to have both parents sign and execute a legal form, either at the time of the child’s birth or not long afterward, acknowledging paternity of the child. Alternatively, the process of legitimization is available to those who marry after the child is born; to legitimize a child, the mother and father simply must update the birth certificate with the relevant authorities, usually the Florida Office of Vital Statistics.
The other ways involve a court order – either a judge will order that, based on evidence, a man is legally a child’s father, or genetic testing will be ordered. Usually this is done via buccal swab (taking cells from the inside of the cheek), and then the Court orders all parties to abide by the results. Note, simply seeking an Order of Paternity does not establish a contact schedule. A separate action is required. However in order to enforce your rights to contact, an unmarried Father’s paternity must be determined by a Judge.
Contact A Family Law Attorney
If you are encountering issues regarding paternity, and want to establish yourself as a child’s father and secure a contact schedule, or if you want to collect child support, contacting an Orlando family lawyer will make all the difference. The experienced attorneys at the firm of Goodblatt · Leo are understanding and patient, and happy to help answer your questions during what can be a difficult and confusing process. To make an appointment, you may contact us via our website, agoodblatt.com, or by phone at 407-228-7007.