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Questioning Your Paternity in Florida

How can paternity be disestablished in Florida?

From ancient times, paternity has been an issue since the biological mother of a child is a verifiable phenomenon, but the biological father may, in some cases remain a mystery. Two recent facts have complicated this confusion: [1] it has become much more acceptable for a woman to have a baby without being married or even in a committed relationship and [2] modern medical advances have made it possible to have babies through sperm donors, often anonymous donors not related biologically to the child.

Because paternity involves not only emotional investment, but legal and financial responsibility as well, determining who is the legally responsible father often becomes an important issue. Since, once paternity is established, the father has a long-term responsibility to support his child, when an individual feels a mistake has been made and he is not, in fact, the father of the child in question, he can legally dispute his paternity.

The Process of Disestablishing Paternity

As has been proven many times, not all parents are truthful about who fathered individual children. A woman may state that a man with whom she has had sexual relations is the father of her child, yet may be lying or making a mistake. Of course the actual biological father of a child may also lie, denying paternity to escape taking responsibility for his actions. Fortunately, these days we have DNA testing that can prove to a very high statistical certainty that a particular man has fathered a particular child. In many cases, a client comes to a family attorney for help in sorting out this type of situation.

In Florida, though the process is difficult and tedious, with the assistance of a lawyer knowledgeable and experienced in matters of paternity, a successful legal challenge to paternity can be made. To do so, a number of steps must be taken. First, you, the alleged legal father, must tell your lawyer of any prior actions, comments, or conversations you have made about the child that can be considered admissions of paternity.

Steps to Disestablish Paternity in Florida

In order to disestablish paternity in Florida, your attorney must file a Petition to Disestablish Paternity with the court. This petition must strictly comply with Florida Statute 742.18 and must be filed in the appropriate circuit court. Included in this initial filing must be the following:

  • Affidavit stating that newly discovered evidence regarding paternity has come to light since legal paternity was originally established

  • The result of a DNA test showing that the legal father is not the biological father of the child or that it was not possible to obtain a DNA sample from the child in question

  • Sworn evidence that child support payments have been made and are current or an affidavit explaining the reason for any past due child support payments

  • Evidence that the legal father has not adopted the child

  • Evidence that the child was not conceived by artificial insemination during the periods that the couple was married

  • Birth certificate verifying that the child was under 18 years of age when the petition for disestablishment of paternity was filed

It should be noted that the clarifying evidence of the child’s true paternity must not have come to the alleged legal father’s awareness prior to his filing for the disestablishment of paternity. Also, if, up to this point, the legal father or his attorney has not been able to obtain a DNA sample from the child, they may obtain a court order for a DNA sample to be taken at this time.

Obstacles to Disestablishing Paternity in Florida

It is still possible for your Petition to Disestablish Paternity to be denied. Reasons that this may happen include the following:

  • You married the mother of the child and represented to others that you were the child’s father
  • You made a sworn statement indicating you were the biological father
  • You allowed yourself to be named as the biological father on the child’s birth certificate
  • You signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity
  • You ignored or disregarded a notice from a state agency or from the court requesting that you submit to genetic testing to prove or disprove paternity

As is abundantly clear from the above information, disestablishing (or establishing) paternity is a complicated process, requiring a great deal of time and legal experience. If you are considering entering the fray of a paternity case, you will need to engage the services of a strong, savvy paternity lawyer to guide you through.

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