Paternity is the legal process of identifying the father of a child born out of wedlock. Paternity laws in Florida have been created to aid children and families statewide. For the non legal person however, these laws can be confusing and even daunting. The team of Donovan Melendez has a long track record of helping families navigate their paternity cases to a positive outcome.

Who can initiate a Paternity Case?

According to Florida statute a paternity case can be initiated by the mother, father, or adult child. (Note—Adult children must file within four years of turning 18.)

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 may bring proceedings in the circuit court, in chancery, to determine the paternity of the child when paternity has not been established by law or otherwise. Florida Statute 742.011

For this reason, paternity cases vary widely from one to the next.

Another variation to paternity cases involve situations where the mother is married but it is thought that the father may not be the husband. In this situation, the man who believes he may be the father of the child has the right to request a DNA test by filing a paternity action.

How to File for Paternity in Florida

Mothers or fathers use the same form in Florida, Family Law Form 12.983(a), Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief. This form is used in all 67 of Florida’s counties. It is used to establish paternity, time-sharing and child support. The following scenarios are the most common for the use of this form.

A mother wants to legally identify her child’s father so he can be held responsibility for his parenting obligations including time sharing, parental responsibility and child support.

A father wants to protect his rights as a parent with a child or children that he believes are his and to receive timesharing, parental responsibility and for child support to be established.

A man assumed to be the father wants to legally demonstrate that he is not the father so he can free himself of parenting responsibilities.

How much time does a Father have to Establish Paternity?

Fathers sometimes do not learn the paternity of a child until well after birth. Because of this, Florida law gives fathers the right to file for paternity from birth up to eighteen years of age. At any point up to 18 years of age, fathers can file a paternity action so they can be part of the child’s life. To file a paternity petition in Florida, the person must have been a Florida resident for at least six months.

Parental Responsibility Once Paternity is Established

When paternity is determined, the next step per Florida law is to determine parental responsibilities.

Paternity and Timesharing

Unless timesharing is specifically addressed in a paternity case in Florida, the father of a child born out of wedlock does not automatically have time sharing rights. According to Fla. Stat. 742.031(2), if the mother and father of a child are not married and there is no court-ordered time-sharing schedule or parenting plan, the biological father does not have any legal right to time-sharing with the child. This means that unless there is a court order providing otherwise, the mother has 100% time sharing and decision-making for the child.

Though the law does favor the Mother prior to a court’s entry of a timesharing decision, Fl. Stat. 61.13(2)(c) (1) states that it is the public policy of the state of Florida that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.

Paternity and Child Support

In Florida, all parents are expected to support their children financially until they turn 18 or graduate from highschool. Florida laws exist to ensure that children are consistently getting their needs met when it comes to the basics of food, shelter, clothing, education, health, and more. There are many factors that are considered in Florida paternity law that provide guidance in determining the specifics of child support. These factors include:

Father’s income
Mother’s income
Health insurance costs
Daycare costs
Time Sharing arrangement

Contact the Donovan Melendez Law Office in Tampa Bay for Help

Mr. Donovan and Mr. Melendez have years of experience Paternity cases. If you need assistance with Paternity related issues, reach out to us at 813-280-0181.

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