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What is Paternity?

The definition of paternity may seem relatively clear: the state of being a father, or the existence of a father-child bond. But when it comes to a divorce, separation, or custody dispute, even simple concepts like paternity can become murky. What is the legal definition of paternity, and how is it established? And why is it so central to family law issues that you may be experiencing right now?

The Legal Definition

Paternity is a legal claim; it refers to the legal establishment of who the father of the child is. Paternity status is reserved for biological fatherhood, and is not affected by issues such as whether the individual actually raised the child or even had contact with the mother of the child after conception. Typically, it need only be established that a person is more likely than not the father, though some states apply higher standards of certainty. Of course, these distinctions mattered much more before the advent of DNA testing, which can now prove paternity extremely convincingly.

How Is Paternity Established?

To receive the legal establishment of paternity requires a civil proceeding. Paternity can be established through five methods in the state of Florida: marriage, voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, a court order, marriage between the mother and biological father after the child’s birth (known as legitimation), and genetic testing of DNA. Most of the time, DNA testing of paternity only occurs if a party contends that a given man is not the biological father of the child. Under a court order, the individual suspected of having paternity will undergo DNA testing in which a DNA profiler examines the genetic characteristics of the child that were not bestowed from the mother and evaluates whether the given man possesses those genetic characteristics. Testing can establish paternity with an error rate of less than 1%.

Why is Paternity Important?

Establishing paternity is critical to legal issues of child support, divorce and separation, visitation rights, and more. Paternity is the legal method of granting men all of the rights and obligations inherent in being a parent. For instance, establishing paternity is the first step towards arranging child support to be paid by the biological father. Similarly, a man wanting visitation rights must often demonstrate paternity in order to be entitled to see his child. When it comes to the establishment of parental obligations (and the division thereof for couples separating or divorcing), establishing paternity is in almost every case a requirement.

Getting Help

Issues of paternity and parental responsibility can be emotional, and navigating the civil proceedings sometimes required to establish paternity can be complex and frustrating. If you are involved in a family dispute, consider relieving some of your stress by turning things over to a reliable and experienced family attorney. Contact a skilled Boca Raton attorney at Schwartz l White at 561-391-9943 today for a consultation to ensure that your rights (as pertaining to paternity and even other family matters) are protected in court proceedings, negotiations, and mediation.

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