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When a married couple has a child there is a legal presumption that the husband is the child's father. However, this isn’t true if the couple is unmarried. It’s important for unmarried couples to establish paternity for a multitude of reasons such as custody, child support and inheritance reasons. Either the mother or the father can petition to establish paternity. If you need to file a paternity action contact the South Florida Office of Arica L. Braaten, P.A. at (954) 380-6000 or by email.

Florida family law defines paternity as the legal recognition of a man’s relationship as a parent including his duties, rights and responsibilities to that child. If the parents marry after the mother becomes pregnant, but before the baby is born, then paternity is presumed the same as if the parents were married at the time the baby was conceived. If the parents marry after the child’s birth, then they can sign a legitimation form, which grants the same rights as if the parents were married at the time of birth.

A child’s parents never have to marry, paternity can be established voluntarily when the parents are certain of the father's identity. In such cases, the mother and father may sign a legal form called a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity and file the form with the court. The voluntary acknowledgement can be completed at the hospital following the child's birth. The father's name will then be included on the child's birth certificate. Even if a voluntary acknowledgement is not completed soon after the child’s birth, the parties may later enter into an agreement with the assistance of their attorneys that establishes the father's identity and resolves custody and support issues.

For the father to have his parental rights established, he must obtain a court order declaring him the child’s father. Listing the father’s name on the birth certificate is evidence of paternity, but it’s insufficient to prove paternity. If you need to have your paternity established contact the Office of Arica L. Braaten, P.A. in Deerfield Beach at (954) 380-6000 to schedule a free consultation.

If paternity can’t be established voluntarily, then a paternity suit must be filed. A paternity suit will establish parental rights and parental obligations. A mother may file a paternity suit to establish that the man she believes is her child’s father is in fact the father. Paternity suits can also be filed by the State of Florida if the mother is receiving public assistance. Florida will initiate the action to recoup the monies paid to the mother by the State of Florida from the father. In these instances, the putative father will be required to appear in court and be forced to give a DNA sample. DNA tests can negate or establish paternity to within about 99 percent certainty. If paternity is established, the court will enter an order declaring him the father and he will be legally obligated to pay child support and have all the parental rights of being a father.

If the mother denies the petitioner is the father of the child, the court will likely order DNA test. Fathers may need to establish paternity in order to enjoy time sharing rights or to contest an adoption. If paternity is established, the father will have all of the parental rights and responsibilities of being a father. A father may also initiate legal action to negate his paternity.

Regardless if you are trying to establish or negate paternity, you can benefit from having an experienced family law attorney on your side. Contact Arica L. Braaten, P.A. for a free consultation at her south Florida Office at (954) 380-6000.

A paternity action doesn’t have to end in litigation. The parties can enter into a settlement agreement that resolves the custody and child support issues. The majority of the time, a father is required by law to provide financial support to his child and there isn’t much room for negotiation. With paternity established, the child obtains many legal rights beyond simple child support such as: the child can inherit from his or her father, is eligible for health insurance coverage under the father's group policy, is entitled to social security benefits if the father dies or becomes disabled, may be entitled to wrongful death benefits if the father dies as a result of someone else's negligence or can obtain medical history information and dependency claims for tax purposes when applying for student financial aid. At Arica L. Braaten, P.A., we represent clients interested in establishing or refuting paternity. We prepare all necessary forms and documentation needed for requesting a paternity test through the court. Afterwards, we can assist you in filing for child support or establishing visitation rights. Contact our Office by email or at (954) 380-6000 to get started!