A paternity suit can be filed by the mother, by an expectant mother, by a man claiming to be the biological father, by the child or by the Department of Revenue.
If the paternity of a child is questioned by the putative father or mother, the court must make certain findings before DNA testing is ordered. Before an order for testing is issued, it must appear to the judge that the complaint appears to be factually accurate, the suit is brought in good faith, the case will likely be supported by reliable evidence and the child’s best interests will be served.
Often when a mother or father files a Petition to Determine Paternity, child support and timesharing with the child are addressed. Once paternity is established child support and timesharing are handled in the same way as in a divorce. The parties incomes are used to set a child support amount and the best interest of a child is used to determine timesharing. A father is entitled to the same consideration as a mother and frequently fathers receive substantial or even majority timesharing.
Under a limited number of circumstances as set out by statute, the Department of Revenue (DOR) is authorized to conduct an administrative hearing to establish paternity and support. The putative father may receive an order to appear for genetic testing unless he requests an “informal review” with the DOR. Although these proceedings are labeled “administrative hearings” and appear to be somewhat informal, the DOR’s determination of paternity and support are binding unless the father timely files a request for review of the order in circuit court. It is in the best interests of the alleged father and even the mother to have the representation of an experienced attorney.
It is difficult, but certainly not impossible, for a man not married to the mother to prove that a child born to a woman in an intact marriage is his child. He has the burden of proving all the allegations of his complaint and must be extremely certain that DNA testing will validate him as the biological father. Even then there are many other facts the Court must consider.
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A putative father who has an interest in establishing and maintaining a parental relationship with a child must take affirmative action to protect his interest. One of the first acts is to have his name placed on the Putative Father Registry maintained by the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. “A Claim of Paternity may be filed at any time prior to the child’s birth BUT may not be filed after the date a petition for termination of parental rights is filed.” (Source http://www.floridahealth.gov/certificates-and-registries/certificates/birth/Putative_Father/index.html) He can take several steps out of court to have himself declared to be the child’s father with or without the mother’s help. Providing support and doing other things to show he has a bona fide interest in the child will preserve his right to become the legal father.
The children involved in these cases also have rights in the legal system as well as in the community. The rights of your child, if born outside of a marriage, are important and you should be familiar with those rights.
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