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John F. Schutz, P.L. | Marital and Family LawJohn F. Schutz, P.L. | Marital and Family Law

As defined by Florida paternity laws, paternity is a process to establish the legal relationship between a child born out of wedlock and the putative (alleged) biological father. A paternity lawsuit may be filed either by the mother or the father of the minor child. During the litigation, the court can may establish the rights and responsibilities of each parent, including participation in parenting decisions (i.e., Shared Parental Responsibility) and the establishment of child support.

Who can file a paternity action?

Any woman who is pregnant or has a child, a man who has reason to believe he is the father of a child, or any child may bring proceedings to determine paternity when it has not been established.

How do I establish paternity?

In Florida, there are five ways to establish paternity:

Marriage:  The parents are married to each other when the child is born.

Acknowledgement of Paternity:  The unmarried couple signs a legal document in the hospital when the child is born, or later.

Administrative Order Based on Genetic Testing:  Paternity is ordered if a genetic test proves fatherhood.

Court Order:  A judge enters a final judgment of paternity.

Legitimation:  The mother and natural father get married to each other after the child is born and update the birth record through the Florida Office of Vital Statistics. If the mother is not married when the child is born, but later marries the child’s father, the law presumes the husband to be the child’s legal father. When this happens, the father’s name is not automatically added to the child’s birth certificate. To add the father’s name to their child’s birth certificate, the parents must send two documents to the Florida Office of Vital Statistics:

1.    A certified copy of their marriage certificate

2.    A completed Acknowledgement of Paternity Form DH-432, signed by both parents.

What will happen once paternity is established?

Typically a parenting plan will be determined, which will include a time-sharing schedule. Child support will be determined and, if necessary, the financial responsibility for hospital or medical expenses pertaining to the birth of the child will be determined.

Before I can file a Paternity lawsuit, do I need biological determination of paternity (a DNA test)?

No. However, if you are uncertain as to the paternity of a child, we always recommend paternity testing. The Court has the authority to order a party and child to submit to DNA testing. Scientific research shows that DNA paternity testing is more than 99% accurate.

If paternity has not been established, what rights do I have as a father?

None. Until a Court enters an order stating otherwise, the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child and she is entitled to custody of the child and decision making authority.

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John F. Schutz, P.L. serves Palm Beach, Florida, and the surrounding areas of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Wellington, Jupiter, Manalapan, Stuart, Sewall’s Point, Tequesta, Abacoa and other areas, including all of Palm Beach County, Martin County and South Florida.

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