Florida Paternity Laws

Florida Paternity Laws

The birth of a child is not only a joyous occasion for a family, but it’s also a legal matter with the state. Paternity laws determine legal custody of a child and dictates who may make decisions regarding the child’s care. These laws vary from state to state and can be complicated. Get the facts on Florida paternity laws to understand your parental rights in this state.

Florida Paternity Overview

In the state of Florida, if a mother is married at the time of her child’s birth, her husband is the legal father of the child. If the mother is unmarried at the time of her child’s birth, it’s up to the parents to establish legal paternity.

Establishing the paternity of a child benefits everyone involved. Identifying paternity gives the mother the ability to obtain a child support order from the courts. It also grants the father visitation rights and the ability to participate in decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. In addition, the father may be eligible for certain governmental benefits once paternity is established.

Decisions that those with legal paternity may make in regard to a child’s upbringing include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Educational decisions, including school selection

  • Religious or spiritual decisions

  • Medical decisions

  • Living situation

Establishing and Disestablishing Paternity in Florida

Fathers who do not currently have legal paternity rights should consider establishing paternity as soon as possible to ensure they can participate in decisions related to the child’s care and upbringing. There are five ways to establish paternity in Florida, including the following methods:

  • Marriage. The husband is considered the legal father when parents are married at the time of the child’s birth.

  • Legitimation. The father and mother are married after the birth of the child and update the birth record.

  • Administrative order on genetic testing. Paternity is ordered if a DNA test determines who the father is.

  • Establishing paternity through a court order. A judge can order paternity in court in some instances.

  • Acknowledgment of paternity. An unmarried couple can declare paternity by signing a document after the birth.

It’s also possible for a man who believes he is not the biological father of a child to terminate his paternal rights and responsibilities. In the state of Florida, a father who has legally acknowledged his paternity out of wedlock has 60 days to rescind his admission. Terminating paternal rights after this time frame becomes much more difficult.

In order to disestablish paternity in Florida, the legal father must submit the following:

  • An affidavit to the Florida courts stating that there has been new evidence that has come to light since the initial paternity acknowledgment.

  • A genetic DNA test that proves he is not the child’s biological father. This can be his own DNA test disproving his paternity, or the genetic test of another man proving that individual is the child’s father.

If the legal father does not have or is unable to obtain this scientific proof on his own, he may ask the courts to order a genetic test.

Sperm Donor Rights

In most instances, anonymous or known sperm or egg donors cannot claim parental rights once the child is born. According to Florida Statute 742.14, sperm, egg, and pre-embryo donors relinquish all parental rights to any child that is born as a result of their donations, with the exception of an executed pre-planned adoption agreement between the donor and the child’s legal parents.

However, there are some cases in which the recipient of the sperm, egg, or pre-embryo donation intends for the donor to retain parental rights to the child. This is usually because the parties involved:

  • Are romantically involved

  • Have a close personal relationship at the time of the transaction

Can Parental Rights be Taken Away?

It’s important for parents to understand that their parental rights may be revoked by the state if they do not provide for their child appropriately. This is done to ensure that children in Florida receive the support, love, care, and resources they need to thrive. Grounds for termination of parental rights in Florida include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abandonment as defined when the identity or location of the parent is unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent search within 60 days.

  • When the parent engaged in conduct toward the child that demonstrates the continued involvement of the parent-child relationship threatens the safety, well-being, or physical, mental, or emotional health of the child, irrespective of the provision of services.

  • When the parent of a child is incarcerated and the time period of the parent’s incarceration will constitute a significant portion of the child’s minority, the incarcerated parent has been deemed by the court to be a violent career criminal, and more.

  • The child continues to be abused, neglected, or abandoned by the parent.

  • The parent has engaged in egregious conduct or had the opportunity and capability to prevent and knowingly failed to prevent egregious conduct that threatens the child’s life, safety, or well-being.

  • The parent has subjected the child to aggravated child abuse, defined as sexual battery, sexual abuse, or chronic abuse.

  • The parent has committed the murder, manslaughter, aiding or abetting the murder, or a felony battery that resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or to another child.

  • The parent has a history of extensive, abusive, and chronic use of alcohol or a controlled substance that makes them incapable of caring for the child, and has refused or failed to complete available treatment.

Need Help with Paternity in Florida? Contact Us Today

Whether you are a mother or a father who needs help with paternity matters, our Jacksonville family law attorneys are here to provide experienced legal guidance. We have helped thousands of families over the years, and you can trust that we will handle your case with the utmost care and efficiency.

Contact Owenby Law, P.A. at (904) 770-3141 to learn how we can help you.

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