Establishing Paternity in the Courts
Becoming a father can be an exciting and enriching experience. You have the opportunity to share your life with your child, nurturing them and building incredible memories together. Yet, there are times when other parties might be preventing you from having access to your child or agreeing to a fair amount of time that allows you to forge a meaningful bond with them. This is particularly common at the end of a relationship where a spouse or partner might try to cast doubt on a man’s paternity in order to deprive them of rights.
This is when starting a paternity suit can come into play. Unfortunately, Tampa courts have been known to show a certain amount of bias in mothers’ favor during these types of circumstances. It is frustrating and unfair, but if there isn’t sufficient evidence or history to show that you are the father of your child, it is likely that a judge will make a custody ruling that sees your child living exclusively with your ex. Obviously, this could see you missing out on precious formative experiences with your child and creating distance. Which is why it is so important to start establishing paternity as soon as possible.
Depending on the circumstances, navigating a paternity suit can be a complex process. Working with experienced representation can give you tools to succeed and take a significant amount of stress off your shoulders. As the well-known custody lawyers for men in Tampa, FL, In Law We Trust, P.A. should be your very first call. Since 2014, the law firm of In Law We Trust, P.A., has been annually selected by the National Trial Lawyers of America as one of the Top 40 under 40 in Florida which is a professional organization by invitation only, composed of the top trial lawyers from each state or region who are under the age of 40. We’ve also been a featured member of The National Academy of Family Law Attorneys since 2019, as well as included in Super Lawyers each year since 2017. Our firm has established a reputation for making certain that fathers get fair representation when pursuing their rightful custody of their children.
Methods to Establish Paternity in Tampa
The methods accepted by courts to establish a man’s paternity tend to vary from state to state, as does the process for confirmation. Your family law attorney will discuss your circumstances with you and conclude which method (or, sometimes, combination of methods) is most likely to result in success. In Florida, though, it usually comes down to a few options.
Birth Certificate Details
Paternity is usually established in the first instance by the name that is detailed on the birth certificate. In Tampa, if you and your child’s mother are married, your name will be entered into the birth record and onto the certificate as a matter of course. If you are not married but present in the hospital, you and the mother can complete a Paternity Acknowledgement form (DH-511) which must be notarized at the time of completion. However, these assume that the mother agrees at the time of birth that you are the father. If she refuses to enter your details or calls paternity into question later down the line, the matter will need to be subject to further examination.
In Florida, there is a distinction between a legal and biological father. If you have already developed a relationship with the child and only later the mother informs you that you are not the father, there are still circumstances where paternity might be established. If you, with the assistance of your family law attorney, file a paternity action, the courts may accept certain types of evidence as your proof of a fatherhood relationship with the child. This might include signed affidavits from community leaders, testimony from friends and family members, and even financial records demonstrating your provision for the child. In this instance a court can’t confirm you are the biological father, but they can establish you as legal father and assert custody rights.
Often the most straightforward method of establishing paternity is through genetic testing. This is where you and the mother both provide samples of genetic material — usually by way of a cheek swab — which are then compared to a child’s genetic samples by an approved laboratory. If a test is required to hold you accountable for child support, this can be undertaken by a simple matter of a request by the Florida Department of Revenue. Somewhat unfairly, though, is if the mother denies your paternity you have to seek a genetic test order from the courts. This will usually only be granted upon submitting an appropriate amount of evidence (see above) to provide the courts with good cause to consider that you may be the father of the child in question. As such, collaborating with an experienced In Law We Trust, P.A. family law attorney in this instance is vital to make sure that you can gather and present the right evidence in a timely manner.
The Reasons to Pursue a Paternity Case
A paternity case can be a difficult and emotional situation, which a compassionate and knowledgeable In Law We Trust, P.A. family law attorney will help to prepare you for. But it is still not unusual that some people will look at the challenges involved and question why pursuing a case is necessary. This might be because they optimistically hope that in the end their spouse will come to their senses and reach a private agreement, or it may be that the cost and stress involved leads them to simply giving in. So, it’s worth reviewing what it is that a paternity case can do for you.
Firstly and most importantly, it forms the basis of most custody arrangements. When your paternity is called into question, a judge or mediator is unlikely to award any visitation rights to you. The sooner you can have your paternity confirmed, the sooner you can assert your various rights as a father. This includes custody, a fair share of child support from your spouse (remember, child support in Florida is based on both parents income and the percentage of shared custody), and your ability to contribute to decisions made about the child’s upbringing. Confirmation of paternity is possibly the most valuable documentation you can have in ensuring your relationship with a child.
Next, and from an emotional perspective, it provides peace of mind. This isn’t just from the perspective of your own mental wellbeing and being secure in the fact that you have documentary evidence of your fatherhood. This is important for your child’s peace of mind as well. The uncertainty around paternity, particularly if the mother has changed the story over time, can be detrimental to the child’s wellbeing. It makes it difficult for them to form trusting connections and even develop their personal identity. Pursuing a paternity suit is as much for your child’s peace of mind as your own.
Establishing paternity can be important when it comes to the health of your child, too. Many families live with inherited health difficulties. In many cases, the sooner these can be addressed, the better chance that the child will live a full and active life. When paternity is thrown into question, it may leave space for potential underlying medical conditions to be missed until much later in life. Successfully pursuing a paternity case can be instrumental in making certain that your child has access to the family medical knowledge they need to thrive.
Team Up with Paternity Counsel for Men in Tampa
There’s no doubt that questions around paternity can be frustrating and upsetting for both you and the child you believe is your own. Particularly in a state like Florida where there is often a bias toward mothers, it is vital that you take steps to confirm your legal and biological fatherhood as soon as possible. When you call us to represent you in your paternity case, we will promptly review all the details and circumstances so that we can provide you with the timely expertise that you need. In Law We Trust, P.A. is a firm of knowledge and compassion in Tampa family law for men. We will work diligently to make sure you can maintain your relationship with your child.