Lyons Snyder & Collin. Trial Attorneys.


The Best Paternity Action Questions And Concepts

By Philip M. Snyder

As a divorce and paternity attorney, I oftentimes receive inquiries concerning paternity actions and, more specifically, the legal significance of a male placing his name on a child’s birth certificate.

As such, the divorce and paternity attorneys of Lyons, Snyder & Collin have a created a “cheat sheet” for our prospective clients so they are familiar with the basic terms, concepts, and time-restrictions for a male who places his name on a child’s birth certificate and/or is designated the “reputed” father of the child.

What is a paternity?

Paternity refers to the legal establishment of who is the father of the child. Paternity assigns rights and benefits to the mother, the father and the child.

A paternity action is an action to determine parental responsibility, time-sharing, and child support.

What are the most common reasons an individual would file a paternity action?

A mother would file for paternity if the legal father is seeking to avoid support.  A biological father would file for paternity to incur support and time-sharing rights (i.e. when the mother refuses to allow the father to see the child).

In almost all situations, paternity actions are filed when a child is born out of law attorney lyons snyder collin

What is “legitimacy”?

Legitimacy exists when a child is born during an intact marriage, regardless of whether the father of the child is the husband or another individual.

A husband of an intact marriage is presumed to be the legitimate father of the child.

This presumption can be overcome by DNA evidence, however.

Why is it important to establish paternity?

Some of the legal rights and benefits for the child include:

  • Information on family medical history
  • The child knows the identity of his/her father
  • The father’s name is on the birth certificate
  • Health or life insurance from either parent, if available
  • Support from both parents (i.e. child support and medical support)
  • Eligible for Social Security or Veteran’s Benefits, Military Allowances & Inheritances

Some of the legal rights and benefits for the parents include:

  • Get a child support order
  • Get a court order for visitation or custody
  • Have a say in legal decisions about the child (i.e. medical decisions)

Will I have to submit to DNA testing to determine paternity?

In a paternity action, the mother, potential father, and child may need to submit to a DNA test for genetic testing to determine the father’s identity.

What is the governmental agency who represents the interests of the child in paternity actions?family law attorney lyons snyder collin

The Florida Department of Revenue is the governmental agency that regulates child support obligations.

Upon request of an individual with standing (i.e. the mother), the Florida Department of Revenue will file a complaint against the father to establish paternity for the purpose of securing unpaid child support.

What is the definition of “reputed” father?

A “reputed” father means “the individual generally or widely believed or considered to be the biological father of a particular child.”

Factors to establish “reputed” father include whether the individual was listed on the birth certificate; whether the child used the individual’s last name; whether a paternity action had been instituted prior to the marriage; or whether the mother had requested paternity testing.

What is the legal significance of a male placing his name on the child’s birth certificate?

The most common means to establish paternity is by reviewing the child’s birth certificate.

A birth certificate includes a “Voluntarily Acknowledgement of Paternity”.

Under Florida Law, if the mother is married at the time of birth, the name of the husband shall be entered on the birth certificate as the father of the child unless paternity has been determined otherwise by the Court.

If the mother is not married at the time of the birth, the name of the father may not be entered on the birth certificate without the execution of an affidavit signed by bother the mother and person to be listed as the father.

Such “Voluntarily Acknowledgement of Paternity” creates a rebuttal presumption of paternity and is subject to the right of any signatory to rescind the acknowledgment within 60 days after the date the acknowledgment was signed.

After the 60 day period, a signed voluntary acknowledgment of paternity shall constitute an establishment of paternity and may be challenged in court only on the basis of fraud, duress or material mistake of fact, with the burden of proof on the challenger and under which the legal responsibilities, including child support obligations of any signatory arising from the acknowledgment may not be suspended from the challenge, except on a finding of good cause.

What happens if I later learn that I am not the child’s biological father?family law attorney lyons snyder collin

In Florida, an individual may file an action for the disestablishment of paternity when the petitioning male is not the biological father of the child.

The petitioner must file a petition before the child turns 18 alleging that newly discovered evidence relating to the paternity of the child has come to the petitioner’s knowledge since the initial paternity determination or child support order and that generally acceptable scientific tests (i.e. DNA test) show that the petitioner cannot be the father of the child.

What happens if my child’s mother leaves Florida with my child?  I am on the birth certificate

Your child’s mother cannot leave Florida without your written permission or without seeking Court approval.

If your child has been removed from the State without your approval, you should immediately file an action with the Court to have your child returned.

It is important that you address this immediately because after your child’s mother and the child are in another state for 6 months, that state becomes the child’s home state.

If you are male or female who recently became or is about to become a parent of a child out of wedlock or it has come to your attention that you are may not be the biological father of a child you are paying support for, it is important to immediately speak with a divorce and paternity lawyer to review your legal rights.