February 13, 2013
Article By: William Dorsey
Contact Us With Your Paternity and Family Law Questions.
When a child is born as a result of a marital union, the law presumes that the husband is the child’s father and grants the husband parental rights accordingly. If you and your child’s mother are not married, you may possess certain rights under the law, depending on your situation.
Until legal paternity is established, you have no rights.
Under Florida law, if a child is born out of wedlock, the mother is the sole “natural guardian” until a legal determination of paternity occurs. Neither your biological relationship with your child, nor the closeness of your relationship with the mother, will alone establish your paternity. You have no legal relationship to the child. You may not be noticed of an action by the mother to terminate your parental rights and place the child for adoption unless you register with the Florida Putative Father Registry nor can you contest any custody matters regarding the child.
Multiple avenues exist for establishing paternity.
The simplest opportunity for ensuring that legal paternity is established occurs at birth. At the hospital, when the child is born, you and the mother can sign a Form DH-511 “Paternity Acknowledgment.” Both of you have to sign before either two witnesses or a notary. When you do this, your name appears on the child’s birth certificate and your child has a legal father right from birth.
You and the child’s mother can acknowledge paternity after the birth by completing a Form DH-432 “Acknowledgement of Paternity.” Again, both of you must sign and must do so before two witnesses or a notary. The Department of Vital Statistics will amend the child’s birth certificate to add your name as the father.
Another option is what’s called “legitimation,” which involves you and the mother marrying and updating the birth record through the Office of Vital Statistics. This involves completing Form DH-432 and submitting the completed form, along with a copy of your marriage certificate, to the Office of Vital Statistics.
Alternately, paternity may be established through genetic testing. The Florida Office of Child Support can assist with accomplishing this. Utilizing this avenue has the advantages of allowing you to avoid going to court, and avoid paying for the test. Using a DNA sample from the inside of the cheek of each of: you, the mother, and the child, the laboratory determines if you are the father. If the test identifies you as the father, the Office of Child Support issues an Administrative Order of Paternity, which has the same legal effect as a court order.
A court may also establish paternity. Typically, courts are involved if either the mother or the alleged father contests paternity. If both the mother and alleged father agree regarding paternity, the two may sign a consent order which, once adopted by court, establishes paternity. Once you’re established, by any of these means, as the legal father of the child, you receive all the same rights as if you and the child’s mother were married when the child was born, such as petitioning for custody of the child. You also take on all the responsibilities of parentage.