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Four Ways to Establish Legal Paternity in Florida


“Become a father” is not such a strange New Year’s resolution once you know something about Florida law.  In Florida, there are four ways that a man can become a child’s legal father.  Some of them involve the birth of a new baby, and others do not.  Despite the associations you probably have with the idea of fatherhood, most of the methods of establishing legal paternity do not require you to have a genetic relationship to the child.  Becoming a father is a big decision, and it can only be undone at a high financial and emotional cost.  Therefore, you should consult a Florida family law attorney about formalizing your relationship as the legal father of your child or children.

Why Should You Establish Legal Paternity?

In the age of no-fault divorce, marriages come and go, but parent-child relationships are much more permanent.  The law cannot tell you what kind of relationship to have with your children after they have reached adulthood, but while they are minors, their legal parents have the right to spend time with them and make decisions about their upbringing; the legal parents also have a responsibility to support them.  If you were never married to the children’s mother, then establishing legal paternity is the only way to ensure an ongoing relationship with them.  You get a parenting plan that guarantees you a certain number of days per year spent with the children.  It also guarantees that if your ex finds a new man who wants to move out of state, she cannot move the children without first modifying the parenting plan to set up a new visitation schedule.

Four Ways to Become a Father

  • The old-fashioned way – If you are married to the mother when the child is born, you are the legal father. A DNA test proving that you are not the biological father will not change that.  If you suspect that your wife is cheating, contact a lawyer now, lest you suffer the fate of Richard Parker.
  • The way of love – Filing a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity with the court will make you the child’s legal father. Your decision becomes irrevocable 60 days after you file the form; you can only get out of being the legal father if you voluntarily terminate your parental rights or if you prove in court that you signed the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity under duress.  DNA testing is not required, and later finding out that you are not the biological father will not revoke your legal paternity.  On a lighter note, if you marry the child’s mother after filing the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, you can later amend the birth certificate to include your name as the father.
  • The other way of love – Adopting a child, whether after marrying the biological mother or by adopting as a single father or jointly with your spouse, makes you the legal father. Adoption, like voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, is permanent.
  • The Kafkaesque way – The court can assign legal paternity to you whether you want it or not. This usually happens when a DNA test shows that you are the biological father, and the child has no other legal father.  It is possible, though, for the court to assign you a child even without a DNA paternity test.

Let Us Help You Today

If your ex is making it difficult for you to establish or maintain a relationship with your children, a family law attorney can help.  Contact the Boca Raton divorce lawyers at Schwartz | White about your case.




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