Paternity Actions & Laws in Florida

In Florida, paternity is governed by Chapter 742, Florida Statutes.  A Petition to Determine Paternity should be filed by a birth mother or father to ask the court to establish paternity, a time-sharing schedule, and/or child support of a minor child or children.  Essentially, this means that you are trying to legally establish who is the father of the child(ren).  In order to file a Petition to Determine Paternity in the state of Florida, the person has to be a resident of Florida for at least six months. 

Many fathers will not discover the paternity of a child until well after the child is born.  Florida statutes recognizes this predicament and give fathers the right to file a paternity action from birth up to eighteen years of age.

Under Florida paternity laws, if a woman is married when she gives birth to a child, it is assumed that the father of the child is the husband.  However, this does not mean that an unmarried father who is not married to their child’s mother has no rights.  If the mother is not married when the child is born, Florida statutes state that paternity must be established through a DNA test, which can be voluntarily or through a court order.  Either party can request the DNA test.  Note that even if there is a name on the birth certificate (usually the husband), if another man believes that he is the father of the child, he has the right to request a DNA test through filing a paternity action.  Due to the complexities of this process, an attorney who specialized in paternity issues can assist you in acquiring the best outcome.

Once paternity is established, the next step is to determine parental responsibility and timesharing of the child or children. The parent who has primary responsibility, which depending on the case, could be the mother or the father, has the decision-making power for significant aspects of the child’s life from education, medical care, and other important life circumstances.  However, if you are unhappy with the current arrangement of parental responsibility and wish to take a more pivotal role in your child’s life, you can request the court order shared parental responsibility, meaning that both parents should make all major decisions with respect to the minor child jointly.

Timesharing is another key issue to sort out once paternity is established.  A timesharing schedule can be decided by the judge or agreement of the parties by way of mediation.  Parental responsibility and timesharing are two other essential areas where a family law attorney can help clients get the best outcome. There are complex formulas that determine responsibility and timesharing (custody schedule).  The judge will use the factors outlined in Florida paternity statutes while considering the presentation of all the facts of your case.

Finally, one parent will generally owe the other parent child support.  Child support ensures the children are getting their needs met when it comes to food, shelter, clothing, educational requirements, health needs, and more. Florida paternity law details multiple factors that will determine what child support will be after paternity is established and/or divorce is final. The major factors of child support guidelines are:

  • Income of the father
  • Income of the mother
  • Health insurance costs
  • Daycare expenses

Timesharing can affect the calculation of child support.

If you are seeking to establish a timesharing schedule, obtain child support, or determine parental responsibility, the first step is to establish paternity through Florida courts.  The attorneys at the Thomas McDonald Law Firm are experts in the issues of paternity and can successfully guide you through a complex and stressful process.  

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