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Establishing paternity in Florida

Florida family law requires biological fathers to pay child support. When paternity is established, fathers assume a financial responsibility for the child's well-being and everyday expenses. However, state law also provides a mechanism to challenge legal paternity.

This process, however, is difficult. Any earlier actions, statements or conversations that the alleged father made about the child may be considered admissions that he fathered the child.

A legal father challenging paternity must file a petition to disestablish paternity with the circuit court that has jurisdiction to hear the case. The petition must contain several important items. It must contain an affidavit or sworn statement with the explanation that new evidence regarding paternity has surfaced since the first determination of legal paternity. This evidence had to be discovered after the first legal paternity finding and could not have been known earlier.

It is also important to include DNA test results showing that the legal father is most likely not the biological father. Instead of these results, the legal father may attach an affidavit stating he couldn't get the child's DNA sample. The legal father may also request that the court order a DNA test. Another affidavit must also show that the father is substantially complying with timely child support payments. The affidavit must contain an explanation if there are delinquent payments.

The court must find that the legal father did not adopt the child or that the child was not conceived by artificial insemination during the marriage of the legal father and mother. The legal father may not stop the biological father from claiming his rights. The child must be under 18-years-old when the petition was filed with the court.

The court may deny this petition if the legal father married the child's mother and told others that he was the child's father, executed an affidavit that he was the biological father, or permitted himself to be named as the child's father on the birth certificate. Grounds for denial also include the father's execution of an acknowledgment of paternity or ignoring a notice from a state agency or court requesting that he submit to a genetic test.

Establishing or disestablishing paternity is a lengthy and complicated process that can have long-term consequences. An attorney can assist parents with these difficult procedures.

Source: Plant City Observer, "Good appeal: How to disestablish paternity in Florida," By Shiobhan Olivero, Esquire, May 26, 2017

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