Frequently Asked Questions
Legal matters are complex. Questions about paternity and potential paternity cases are very fact specific. If you have questions or concerns about your specific circumstances, it is strongly recommended that you speak with a qualified Florida family law attorney. The information on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
What is a paternity case?
Section 742.011, Florida Statutes, permits any woman who is pregnant or has a child, any man who has reason to believe that he is the father of a child, or any child to bring a case to circuit court to determine the paternity of the child when the paternity has not been established by law or otherwise.
What if my husband and I are married but our child was conceived before we were married? Is a paternity case necessary?
When a child is born while his/her mother is married regardless of when the child was conceived, the husband is the presumed legal father and no paternity case is necessary to establish the husband’s paternity.
What if my husband and I conceived a child during our marriage but have decided to get divorced before the child is born. Is a paternity case necessary?
No. When a child is born while his/her mother is married, the husband is the presumed legal father. Also, parental rights and responsibilities as well as child support will be determined through a dissolution of marriage proceeding under Chapter 61, Florida Statutes. A final judgment of dissolution of marriage that establishes a child support obligation is considered a final determination of paternity.
What effect does the marriage of the child’s mother and the alleged father have on a pending paternity action?
Section 742.091, Florida Statutes, provides that, if the mother of any child born out of wedlock and the reputed father marry each other at ay time, the child shall “in all respects be deemed and held to be the child of the husband and wife, as though born within wedlock.” The court has the authority to determine any requests for attorney’s fees and costs in the pending paternity action and, once determined, the court will dismiss the paternity action. The record of the paternity proceedings will be sealed against public inspection in the interests of the child.
What is the putative father registry?
The Florida Putative Father Registry is handled by the Florida Office of Vital Statistics.
An “unmarried biological father” is a male who engaged in sexual intercourse which he believes may have resulted in the conception of a child, who is not married to the child’s mother at the time of conception or on the date of birth of the child, and who, before filing a petition to terminate parental rights, has not been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to be the legal father of the child or has not filed an affidavit to be included on the child’s birth record.
By filing with the Putative Father Registry, an unmarried biological father is asserting a claim of paternity in an attempt to retain legal rights for any child he may have fathered. By registering with the Putative Father Registry, the unmarried biological father is submitting to Florida’s jurisdiction and is notifying the State of Florida of his intention to pay child support if paternity is established.
A claim of paternity may be filed at any time prior to the child’s birth but a claim of paternity may not be filed after the date a petition is filed for termination of parental rights.
The child’s birth certificate is not impacted by an unmarried biological father’s registering with the Putative Father Registry and, if the father wishes to be listed on the birth certificate as the father, the mother must agree to it or the court must order it.
Registering with the Florida Putative Father Registry does not establish paternity, child support, parental rights, timesharing, or any other related relief. It only entitles the unmarried biological father to notice in the case of a termination of parental rights proceeding. If an unmarried biological father wishes to establish paternity, child support, parental rights, timesharing, or any other related relief, he should consider filing a paternity case.
A revocation of claim of paternity may be made at any time prior to the birth by filing such revocation with the Florida Putative Father Registry.
If you have questions about whether or not you should file with the Florida Putative Father Registry, you should speak with a qualified Florida family law attorney.
Can the court compel a DNA test during a paternity proceeding?
Section 742.12, Florida Statutes, permits a court to require the child, mother, and alleged father(s) to submit to scientific tests to show a probability of paternity.
If the biological father and biological mother are unmarried and sign a “voluntary acknowledgment of paternity” is a paternity action necessary to establish paternity?
No. A “voluntary acknowledgment of paternity” creates a rebuttable presumption of paternity and no judicial or administrative proceeding is required to affirm or ratify the acknowledgment. Such an acknowledgment, however, may be rescinded for any reason within sixty (60) days of signing. After sixty days, the “voluntary acknowledgment of paternity” may be challenged only for fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.
Florida Department of Vital Statistics has “voluntary acknowledgment of paternity” forms, as well as other forms, available on-line. Click here for the Department’s website. It is recommended you consult with a qualified Florida family law attorney before executing any forms.
The execution of a “voluntary acknowledgment of paternity” does not establish things such as a child support payment and a parenting plan (including parental responsibility and a timesharing schedule), so a separate paternity proceeding may need to be instituted to establish these things.
What kind of things can be requested through a paternity case?
- Establishment of paternity (in other words, identify the child’s legal father)
- Establish parental responsibility (decision making authority as it relates to the child)
- Establish a parenting plan including things such as:
- A timesharing schedule for the child and parents
- A holiday timesharing schedule
- Division of extracurricular expenses for the minor child
- Establish child support obligation including:
- Which parent should provide medical insurance coverage for the child
- Division of unreimbursed reasonable and necessary medical expenses
- Contribution towards pregnancy and birth-related expenses for an unborn child
- Division of the child dependency exemption for federal tax purposes
- Adding the father’s name to the child’s birth certificate
- Changing the child’s name upon establishment of paternity
- Payment or contribution towards attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs
What kinds of things cannot be requested through a paternity case?
Florida paternity laws do not provide for alimony awards or equitable distribution of the parties’ assets and liabilities.
Once established, can paternity be disestablished?
Florida law permits the disestablishment of paternity under certain circumstances. The answer to this question is very fact-specific; therefore, it is recommended you consult with a qualified Florida family law attorney if you have questions about your particular case.
Can a sperm donor assert paternity over a child resulting from his donation?
Generally, no. Sperm donation and other forms of reproductive technology are regulated by contract and statutes; therefore, the answer to this question may depend on the facts of the case. It is recommended you consult with a qualified Florida family law attorney if you have questions about your particular case.
Although many of these resources reference “divorce,” they are equally applicable to unmarried parents who are ending their romantic relationship.
This PDF prepared by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) provides ten suggestions on ways parents can help lessen the impact of their break-up on their children.
This PDF prepared by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) provides a list of children’s concerns parents undergoing a transition in their relationship with a significant other should not forget.
This PDF prepared by the Arizona Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts provides tools, tips, and good practices for parents, who co-parent while residing separately, to follow when communicating with each other.
This PDF prepared by the Office of the Attorney General of Texas offers suggestions and information about ways parents living separately can continue to work together to raise their children.
This PDF prepared by the American Academy of Pediatrics provides parents whose relationships have become irreconcilable with suggestions on how to talk to help their children adjust to the transition.
This PDF prepared by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry provides divorcing or separating parents with insight on how children may perceive their parents’ transitioning relationship and suggestions on how to assist the children with the changing family relationships.
This article, published in the Summer 2013 edition of the American Bar Association Section of Family Law Family Advocate, discusses benefits and tips to teaching organizational skills to children of blended families.
This page provides answers to frequently asked questions about Parent Coordinators and their role in assisting families who are experiencing co-parenting challenges. The page also includes links to local resources available in counties throughout the State of Florida.
This publication, prepared by the Supreme Court of Arizona, provides parents who are no longer cohabiting with helpful ideas in making decisions about a parenting plan specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of their families.
This website, prepared and hosted by Zero to Three, a global non-profit organization founded in 1977 by leading researchers and clinicians in diverse disciplines focused on child development, provides information, research, and materials about, among other things, child early development and well-being, early learning, parenting, and policy and advocacy. The mission of Zero to Three is to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life.
- Dear Mom & Dad: Voice of the Child of Divorce
This video, “Dear Mom & Dad”, was written by Monica Epperson, founder of The Child of Divorce. Monica experienced five divorces during her childhood and started The Child of Divorce to provide resources to children who are experiencing hurtful ramifications due to divorce.