How to Disestablish Paternity in Florida Child Support Cases
In this article, we’ll break down:
- Grounds for Challenging Paternity in Florida and Terminating Child Support
- How to Disestablish Paternity in Florida Child Support Cases
- What Happens if the Child’s Mother Denies You Access to the Child for Genetic Testing?
- Criteria the Court Uses to Disestablish Paternity and Grant Relief from Child Support
Every child in Florida has a right to receive child support from both legal parents. The important stipulation being ‘legal parents.’ Often in dissolution of marriage cases, or cases of separation, paternity is assumed. This can lead to situations of an alleged father paying child support for a child that is not his own.
If you uncover new evidence and have a reason to believe that the child you are supporting is not your biological son or daughter, you have the right to petition Florida courts to disestablish paternity and seek relief from your Florida child support obligations.
Disestablishing paternity is not as simple as taking a genetic test. The grounds for challenging paternity in Florida and the filing process are extensive. And, because disestablishing paternity is a first step in terminating child support payments, expect the emotions of everyone involved to run high.
Grounds for Challenging Paternity in Florida and Terminating Child Support
A male has the right to challenge a paternity ruling and seek relief from child support if he knows or believes the child named in the ruling is not his biological son or daughter.
This is true even if the final judgment in your dissolution of marriage case was filed years ago. As long as you file your petition to disestablish paternity before the child’s 18th birthday, the petition is lawful and can be reviewed by the court.
Disestablishing paternity comes down to your ability to present enough newly discovered evidence to overturn the initial paternity determination or established child support obligation.
As the alleged father, this burden of proof is on you; you’ll need to prove without any doubt that the child is not yours.
How to Disestablish Paternity in Florida Child Support Cases
Disestablishing paternity and terminating your child support obligation starts with a petition. A Petition to Disestablish Paternity and/or Terminate Child Support Obligation Form 12.951(a) must be filed by a male and meet a long list of requirements before a court will bring it under review.
- Scientific DNA Test Results
The most compelling evidence in your case will be the results of DNA tests. Test results proving that you are not the child’s father must be submitted with the petition. Be aware that the court will only accept test results from a test administered within 90 days of the date you file your petition.
Depending on the terms of your child custody order, though, you may not have access to the child to complete this requirement. In these cases, you can submit an affidavit with your petition stating that you didn’t have access to the child and that you request access to conduct the test.
Be aware that as the petitioner, you’re responsible to cover the costs of the tests.
- Affidavit Stating Newly Discovered Evidence
As we stated above, the court wants to see newly discovered evidence to overturn the original paternity ruling when reviewing your petition. You must submit a petition to disestablish paternity with an affidavit identifying the newly discovered evidence and stating that it was discovered after the final paternity ruling or most recent child support order.
The court will accept the results of a recent DNA test as the newly discovered evidence required to file for a petition to disestablish paternity and terminate child support.
- Affidavit of Child Support
Your child support payments must be current before you file your petition. Submit your petition with a signed affidavit stating that your support payments are up to date.
If your support payments are not current, but you’ve complied with the child support order and the delinquency was due to an inability for just cause, include a statement to this effect in your affidavit and submit it with your petition.
You’ll want to file your petition, along with all affidavits and test results, with the circuit court that has jurisdiction over the most recent child support obligation.
There are exceptions in some cases, and you may need to file elsewhere. For example, if your support order was determined administratively and, therefore, not ratified by the court, you’ll want to file your petition in the circuit court where the child’s mother, legal guardian, or custodian lives. If the child’s mother, guardian, or custodian lives out of state, you’ll need to file your petition in your county’s circuit court.
Note that once your petition is submitted, nothing is finalized until after the court makes a ruling in your case and relieves you of your child support obligations. No matter how confident you are that paternity will be disestablished, you are still legally responsible to pay court-ordered child support until otherwise notified by the court. Stopping payment is not only illegal, but it can also jeopardize your ability to receive the paternity and support relief you’re after.
What Happens if the Child’s Mother Denies You Access to the Child for Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing to disestablish paternity isn’t always an easy task, especially if the child’s mother doesn’t want to see a modification to the child support order. If you’re in this situation, the court has the power and ability to step in.
Continue by submitting your petition to the court stating you don’t have access to the child to complete the test. They can order the child and the child’s mother, guardian, or custodian to submit the child to a DNA test.
If the child’s mother, guardian, or custodian still fails to comply and submit the child for the test, the court will have no choice but to grant your petition to disestablish paternity and relieve your child support obligations.
Criteria the Court Uses to Disestablish Paternity and Grant Relief from Child Support
Overturning a prior court ruling is never easy. And successfully overturning a paternity case involves more than taking a DNA test and presenting new evidence. You’ll need to meet each of the following criteria to win your case:
- There’s newly discovered evidence related to paternity
- The scientific DNA test was conducted properly
- You’re current on all child support payments or have complied with your support obligation and any delinquencies are due to an inability for just cause
- You haven’t adopted the child
- The child was not conceived by artificial insemination while you and the child’s mother were married
- You didn’t act to deny the child’s biological father from asserting his parental rights
- The child wasn’t under 18 years of age when you filed the petition
If paternity is disestablished and your child support obligations are relieved, the relief applies only to prospective child support payments and paternal rights. The child support you’ve already paid is not retroactively relieved.
Find the Right Florida Family Lawyer to Help You Disestablish Paternity
We probably don’t need to warn you that petitioning to disestablish paternity isn’t likely to go over well with the parent currently receiving support. This will be a challenging and highly emotional process for everyone involved. For this reason, and many others, having an experienced family law attorney by your side can make the process of disestablishing paternity easier and improve your chances of terminating your child support obligations.
Contact us today for a free family law case evaluation. We’ll listen to your case and explain your rights. When you’re ready to work with a Florida family law and divorce lawyer to help you disestablish paternity, fill out the form on our Contact Us page or give us a call at (954) 880-1302.