Is the Biological Father the Same as the Legal Father?
Paternity lawyers fight for a father’s right to be in his child’s life. Although a man may have contributed his DNA to the formation of a child with an unmarried woman, this does not always mean that he has any rights to see the child, make any decisions, or participate in the child’s upbringing. This makes him the biological father but not necessarily the legal father. The legal father has all rights and responsibilities for the child. A paternity lawsuit can help biological fathers in these types of situation gain time-sharing rights and decision making authority over the child. Things are different for married men who have children with their wives. Florida law presumes that the husband is the legal father to any child that his wife has.
Men who have Children with Unmarried Mothers Need to Take Further Steps to Have Custody of Their Children
In Florida, when an unmarried woman has a child with a man, the mother automatically has 100% custody of the child. The mother can move in-state or out-of-state with the child with no obligation to the father. She can make all decisions about the child’s health, education and well-being and exclude the father from the child’s life. To stop this, the father will have to get a court- ordered parenting plan.
If the father did not sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form at the time of the child’s birth or sometime thereafter, the unmarried mother can give up the child for adoption without any input from the father. The father’s name will be on the child’s birth certificate after he and the mother sign the paternity form and it is filed with the Florida Department of Vital Statistics. Even if the mother and father are no longer on good terms after signing and filing the paternity form, the mother cannot change her mind and take him off of the birth certificate. The father has 60 days to rescind his signature on the paternity form if he signed it due to fraud, coercion or duress.
It’s even worse for fathers whose names are not on the child’s birth certificate and who haven’t registered with the Florida Putative Father Registry. In these types of situations, the unmarried mother can give up the child for adoption and the father won’t even have a right to know about the adoption proceeding. A timely paternity lawsuit is critical for men who have fathered children with unmarried women.
How Can a Father Establish Paternity?
If a father did not establish paternity voluntarily, there are many other ways how to achieve this result:
- The mother can start a paternity lawsuit;
- The mother and the father can get married;
- Any man who believes that he is the father of the child can start a paternity lawsuit and name other men who could be the father;
- By an administrative order based on a DNA test in a Department of Revenue child support case;
- By domesticating a foreign judgment of paternity; or
- The child can start a paternity lawsuit;
Paternity is not the same as custody. If a man has successfully established himself as the child’s father, this means that a legal relationship is created between him and the child. He has a financial responsibility to provide for the child and the child has inheritance rights from his estate. He will still need a parenting plan from the court for time-sharing and decision-making authority.
Call our Paternity Lawyer to Discuss Your Unique Situation
At the Fletcher Law Office, aggressive paternity attorney, Cheryl Fletcher, makes herself available to listen to issues concerning a father’s paternity and custodial rights. She then takes this information to court and puts on the best case for you in front of the judge. Our main office is conveniently located in West Palm Beach, right of I-95 at the 45th street exit, about ½ mile behind Burger King. One-and-one consultations are also available via phone and video conference.
If you are an alleged father in a paternity case, it is important to challenge the assertion with experienced legal advocacy, if you believe you are not the biological father of the child. Failure to challenge paternity after it has been presumed or established could leave you open to child support obligations, even after paternity has been disproved.
Yes. If the man is the child’s legal father, he is responsible for child support. You may also be able to recover retroactive child support for up to two years prior, from the date you filed the paternity lawsuit.
It depends. If paternity has been established voluntarily, you cannot use a DNA test to challenge it, unless you can prove that you signed the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form due to fraud, duress or a material mistake. If your name is not on the birth certificate and you do not agree that you are the child’s father, the court or the Florida Department of Revenue Child Support Program will require your DNA.
Your name is listed on the birth certificate after you sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form. This creates the presumption of paternity that you are child’s legal father. The presumption runs for 60 days from the date of signing, during which time you may withdraw your signature. If 60 days has passed and you did not withdraw your signature, you are the child’s legal father by operation of law. You will still need to go to court to establish a parenting plan and child support obligations, especially if you and the mother are no longer getting along.
The case is more complicated if the mother of the child was married to another man at the time of the child’s birth because the husband is presumed to be the legal father and he will have to file an action to disestablish paternity in order invalidate the presumption that he is the child’s legal father before you, the biological father, can have legal rights to the child.
If a Father Does Not Establish Paternity, Is the Father Free and Clear of Child and Related Support?
If the father is married to the child’s mother, Florida law presumes that he is the child’s legal father and he is responsible for child support, even if he is not the child’s biological father. He can stop this obligation by filing a Petition to Disestablish Paternity. If the father is not married to the child’s mother, he is not recognized as the legal father until he voluntarily agrees to paternity or it is done by an administrative or court order. He will not have any child support obligation until paternity is established. However, he may be responsible for up to two years of back child support, from the date paternity is proven.
If I Find Out That I am not the Biological Father of My Wife’s Child, Can I Disestablish My Paternity?
In some circumstances you may be able to. A married man is presumed to be the legal father of any children that his wife has. If you are not the child’s biological father, you will have to file a Petition to Disestablish Paternity. You have a good chance of winning the case unless:
- You legally adopted the child;
- The child was conceived via artificial insemination using another man’s sperm, if conception occurred during the marriage;
- You got married the child’s mother and assumed parental responsibility;
- You signed an acknowledgement of paternity or consented to your name being listed on the birth certificate;
- You voluntarily, and in writing, agreed to support the child, or;
- You failed to submit to a paternity test as requested by a government agency.