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What is the family law process for establishing paternity?

Couples in Florida in traditional marriages may not know that their status affords their children certain protections that unmarried parents do not have. For example, when a child is born to a married couple, paternity is established without any further legal action. This means the husband of the biological mother is the legal father of the child and their name will be on the birth certificate. Health insurance, inheritances and other benefits can flow from this legal and biological bond. However, what happens when a child is born to an unmarried couple?

In instances where the parents are not married, paternity must be established. This means when the child is born, they do not have a legal father. The quickest way to establish paternity is at the hospital when the child is born. The child's father can fill out a form known as a Paternity Acknowledgment form and both parents can sign it in front of the notary right there. This means that the father's name will be included on the birth certificate when it is recorded.

If paternity is not established in the manner mentioned above, but the parents are marrying one another after the child is born, the father will then become the legal father of the child, assuming that the child is under the age of 18. However, in order to add the name to the birth certificate, the couple must fill out the Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida form and provide a written statement to the Clerk of the Court while applying for a license.

If paternity is not established in any other way, the mother can establish it through a legal order. Either the Florida Department of Revenue, or a judge can order genetic testing to establish paternity.

Establishing paternity is important not only to ensure that children know who their father is and to create a bond with them, but also so the court can order child support payments from the biological parent to the custodial parent. A family law lawyer may be able to assist parents in establishing paternity and understanding what rights and obligation go along with it.

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