Even if a child’s parents are not married to one another, they are both still responsible for supporting the child and meeting the child’s needs. For this reason, a custodial parent may want to seek child support from the noncustodial parent and the noncustodial parent may want to seek custody or visitation with the child. However, if parents are unmarried paternity must be established before they can pursue these options.
Establishing paternity voluntarily
There are two main ways to establish paternity in Florida. First, paternity can be established voluntarily by executing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. This form is available at the hospital when the child is born, or you can obtain one online or from a local Florida Health Department or an area Florida Department of Children and Families office. This form is filled out and signed by the parents in front of two witnesses or a notary public. Once executed, the parents can mail the form to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics and the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate.
Establishing paternity through a court order
The second way to establish paternity is through a court order. This choice may be preferred if there is a dispute as to whether the man is the child’s biological father. The judge may order a genetic test to help determine paternity. Once the judge examines the evidence, they will issue an order stating the man is the child’s legal father. Note that if the alleged father was served but does not show up at court, he may be made the legal father by default.
Establishing paternity benefits the parents and the child
Establishing paternity is good for parents. It allows the mother to pursue child support and it allows the father to pursue custody or visitation. Most of all, it benefits the child who can have a sense of identity knowing their parentage as well as have the financial and emotional support needed to grow and thrive.