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The Florida Dad’s Guide to Establishing Legal Paternity


You have probably met fathers who feel like the family court gave them a raw deal.  They might pay a large portion of every paycheck in child support but only spend a few days each month with their children, and only on the days that are most convenient for the children’s mother.  The side of the story you are not hearing is that the law encourages fathers to spend time with their children and take an active role in decisions regarding their upbringing.  Once you establish legal paternity, you have the right to be an equal partner in decisions about your children.  For help establishing paternity or exercising your rights as a parent, contact a Boca Raton paternity lawyer.

Paternity by Default

If you are married to the child’s mother when the child is born, the law automatically recognizes you as the child’s legal father.  Your name can go on the child’s birth certificate, and you have the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s medical care, travel, and education.  If you and the child’s mother later divorce, you will draft a parenting plan that guarantees the days each year that you get to spend with the children and the decisions you get to make about their care.

The Earliest Opportunity for Unmarried Fathers to Establish Paternity

If you are not married to the child’s mother when the child is born, you do not automatically become the legal father, even if you and the mother have lived together for an extended period before the child’s birth.  To become the legal father, you must establish paternity, but you cannot do this until after the child is born.  (DNA tests are available that enable you to tell whether you are the biological father of an unborn child, but these cannot be used for establishing legal paternity.)  The only action you can take during the mother’s pregnancy is to have your name listed on the Putative Father Registry.  If your name is on the registry, the mother cannot place the child for adoption without your consent.

DNA Is Not the Deciding Factor

To get recognition as the legal father of a child, you can establish paternity by filing a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity.  This acknowledgement becomes irrevocable 60 days after it is filed.  This means that, if a DNA test later establishes that you are not the biological father, you will remain the legal father.  If you are unsure of whether you are the biological father, the time to get a DNA paternity test is before you file a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity.  The mother must also sign the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity; if she refuses, you should hire a paternity lawyer.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

Do not let a bad breakup with your children’s mother or an acrimonious divorce get in the way of your relationship with your children.  Contact the Boca Raton paternity lawyers at Schwartz | White about your case.



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