How to Establish Paternity in Florida Child Support Cases
In this article, we’ll break down:
- Five Methods the Court Uses to Determine that Paternity Has Been Established
- How to Establish Paternity in Florida to Receive Child Support
- When Your Ex-Spouse Disputes Paternity and Any Obligation to Pay Child Support
- Filing a Lawsuit to Establish Paternity in Florida
- When the Alleged Father Refuses to Take a Genetic Paternity Test
Establishing paternity for child support cases in Florida is pretty straightforward–in theory. The alleged father is either the biological father or he isn’t. But there ends up being a lot of gray areas and headaches in paternity cases when the alleged father denies paternity or refuses to take a genetic test.
Under Florida law, parents have a legal and moral duty to care for the financial well-being of their minor child. Child support can only be ordered, however, from a child’s legal parent. That means that before receiving support, you’ll need to first establish paternity.
Five Methods the Court Uses to Determine that Paternity Has Been Established
There are five ways to go about establishing paternity in Florida.
Methods 1, 2, and 3 are the most common. In each of these circumstances, the parents were in agreement about paternity. These methods are:
- If the child was conceived and/or born while the parents were married
- The parent’s name is on the child’s birth certificate
- The parent voluntarily signed a sworn paternity affidavit or acknowledgment
Methods 4 and 5 are ways of establishing paternity when either the mother or father disagree. These methods are:
- Paternity was established by a court or administrative proceeding
- Paternity was determined within an adjudicatory hearing brought under the statutes governing inheritance or dependency under workers’ compensation or similar compensation program
How to Establish Paternity in Florida to Receive Child Support
The court requires that you establish paternity before receiving any child support from your child’s biological father. You can start this process at any time (even before your child is born) up to four years before the child reaches majority; age 18 in Florida.
In some cases, paternity is assumed and does not need to be established. If a divorcing couple was married when their child was born, and if both of their names are on their child’s birth certificate, then they are both legally responsible for the care of the child. In these cases, the husband is assumed to be the child’s biological father. Establishing paternity is, therefore, not necessary and both parents are required to pay child support.
Establishing paternity to receive child support is necessary when a child is born out of wedlock. For instance, when an unmarried mother gives birth to her child, paternity isn’t established until an affidavit is signed by both parents.
If the parents agree they are both the biological parents to their child, the process for establishing paternity is easy and straightforward. There are few ways unmarried parents can establish paternity.
- They can both sign a voluntary affidavit acknowledging paternity or a stipulation of paternity.
- They can sign a notarized voluntary affidavit acknowledging paternity.
- They can sign a voluntary affidavit witnessed by two individuals under penalty of perjury.
A voluntary affidavit is often signed at the hospital where the mother gave birth. Whichever option you choose, your signed document must be filed with the clerk of court in the county where you live.
What if Your Ex-Spouse or Partner Disputes Paternity and Any Obligation to Pay Child Support?
Sadly, there are far too many cases of mothers petitioning for child support only to have the biological father deny paternity. In these cases, the mother seeking child support from her child’s biological father must prove and establish paternity through a court order.
Filing a Lawsuit to Establish Paternity in Florida
Any woman who is pregnant or has a child may bring a lawsuit against her child’s alleged biological father if paternity has not been established by law.
To establish paternity and proceed to petition for child support, you’ll first need to file your case in your county’s circuit court. The state of Florida recognizes long arm jurisdiction, meaning that if, after engaging in sexual intercourse with a non-citizen or a non-resident of the state, your child was conceived in the state of Florida, the biological father is held to the jurisdiction of the Florida court.
Once you’ve filed your case in your county, you’ll need to request that a scientific genetic test be ordered. You’ll also need to provide either a sworn statement or a written declaration alleging paternity with facts to prove a reasonable possibility of requisite sexual contact between you and your child’s father.
The Florida Department of Revenue administers the proceedings to establish paternity and child support, the orders to appear for genetic testing, and the orders to establish child support obligations. The department will also be the governing body to render a final order once paternity is established.
When you file a case to establish paternity, the department can move ahead with the paternity proceeding only if the following are true:
- The child’s paternity has not been established
- No one is named as the father on the child’s birth certificate, or the person named as the father is the putative father named in an affidavit or written declaration
- The child’s mother was unmarried when the child was conceived or born
- The Department of Revenue is providing services under Title IV-D
- The child’s mother or putative father has stated in an affidavit, or in a written declaration, that the putative father is or may be the child’s biological father
If the department moves ahead with the paternity case, its next job is to serve the alleged biological father with a Notice of Proceeding to Establish Paternity. Your ex-spouse or partner will be served via certified mail with a notice that includes your intent to seek child support in conjunction with the paternity action.
The notice will include an Order to Appear for Genetic Testing, along with the date, time and location they’ll go to take the test. As long as your ex-spouse or partner complies with the order, the department will cover the cost of the test.
If the paternity test shows a statistical probability of paternity of 99% or more, the court will assume paternity and regard the man as your child’s biological father.
The father does have the right to object to the results in writing and request a second test. But he has to show good cause for the need for the second test. If there’s no objection within 10 days, or if the objection isn’t granted, the test results are admitted into evidence.
What Happens if The Alleged Father Refuses to Take a Genetic Paternity Test?
The alleged father has a right to contest the order and state why they should not be ordered to submit to genetic testing. They do not, however, have the right to ignore the original order by refusing to take the paternity test.
Here’s what to do if you find yourself in either situation.
Contesting the Order to Appear for Genetic Testing
The alleged father has the right to contest the order for genetic paternity testing. If he chooses to contest the order, he must file a written request for informal review with the Department of Revenue within 15 days of being served with the original notice.
If the department still intends to proceed, the alleged father can file a request for an administrative hearing and state why he should not be ordered to submit to the test. This request must be filed within 15 days after the department decides to proceed with the case or your ex-spouse will automatically have his rights to a hearing waived.
If the request for a hearing is not granted based on the facts he presented, the order will remain final, and your ex-spouse will be required by law to submit to the genetic paternity test.
Refusing to Take the Paternity Test
If your ex-spouse or partner refuses to take a court-ordered paternity test, of if he fails to show up for the appointment, the Florida Department of Revenue can step in and take action against him.
The department has the authority to:
- Commence a proceeding to suspend his driver’s license and motor vehicle registration until he appears for the genetic test
- Impose a $500 fine
- File a petition to establish paternity requiring him to cover the full cost of the genetic test
Find the Right Florida Family Law Lawyer to Help You Establish Paternity
Establishing paternity is a straightforward process if both parents are in agreement. But if you’re filing for child support with an ex-spouse or partner who refuses to acknowledge paternity for your child, the stakes are high and the law can be complex.
Having an experienced family law attorney by your side will better your chances of establishing paternity and receiving the child support you need.
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 establish paternity, fill out the form on our Contact Us page or give us a call at (954) 880-1302.