Fort Lauderdale Paternity Lawyer
At Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC, we have helped numerous fathers, families and children with their paternity or family law issues. Whether a man believes he is the rightful father of a child or a child is seeking his or her father, we can help. Let our experienced Fort Lauderdale paternity lawyer help you.
How is legal and biological paternity different?
Biological paternity means that you are the genetic father of the child. Legal paternity means that the court recognizes you as the legal father of the child and entitles you to all benefits and responsibilities, including financial, of biological paternity. Situations may arise in which the legal and biological fathers are different, such as when a man legally adopts a child. In this situation, the biological father loses his paternal rights and the adoptive father establishes his own parental rights and responsibilities.
There are several ways to establish legal paternity, including through marriage, adoption, or a paternity action. For example, the husband in a legal marriage is presumed to be the father of a child who was conceived during the marriage even if it is known that the wife was having an affair. If the other man would like to establish paternity, he must file a paternity action with the court. If the other man’s paternity is proven, the married man can lose his paternal rights in regard to the child.
How can paternity be established?
There are different ways to establish paternity in Florida. First, as mentioned above, paternity can be established by demonstrating you were married to a child’s mother when the child was conceived. If two parents are not married, they must take affirmative steps for the father to be legally recognized as a parent of the child.
Parents can voluntarily agree to paternity and can complete, sign, and submit a form called the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity and 60 days after filing the form, the legal paternity is established. This form is signed under oath that requires the parents to tell the truth. Once paternity is established voluntarily, a parent cannot come forward and simply change their mind and revoke paternity. In order to have a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity overturned, one parent must show they only signed the form due to fraud, coercion, or extreme duress.
If there is no voluntary acknowledgement, you must request the court to declare legal paternity. To establish paternity of a child in this manner, you must first file a paternity suit. A suit can be filed by:
- A man who believes or does not believe he is the rightful father of a child
- A woman who is pregnant who already has a child
- A child who has not established paternity
In a paternity action, the father, mother and child generally undergo a DNA test to compare the genetics of the parties. Even if it is established that the biological father is not the husband, a court may not necessarily award legal paternity. A judge has the discretion to decide that it would be in the best interest of the child for the nonbiological father to retain legal paternity. Therefore, having a family lawyer advocate that a relationship with you is in your child’s best interest is especially important.
Why is paternity important?
Paternity is important from both a social and a legal perspective. From the social perspective, not recognizing the child as your own has a special significance in how you and the child are perceived. From the legal perspective, your parental rights are dependent upon your legal fatherhood of the child. Being declared the legal father of the child can permit you to receive:
- Custody rights
- Visitation rights
- Decisions regarding your child’s education, religious instruction or healthcare
If you believe you are the father of a child, it is only natural that you want to have a relationship and spend time with your child. In order to get legal rights to custody and/or visitation, you must first establish that you are the father. If the child’s mother asserts that you are not the father, you may have to undergo a DNA test to prove you are the biological father and, therefore, establish legal parental rights.
In many cases, a mother may seek to establish paternity because she needs financial assistance supporting a child. Establishing paternity often results in a child support order being issued by the courts against the legal father (assuming the father is the noncustodial parent). If someone claims you are the father of their child, you may be facing years of child support payments until the child is 18 years of age or even longer in certain situations. For this reason, if you believe you are not the father of a child, you should always have an experienced paternity lawyer to help you challenge the paternity action.
On the other hand, if you are a mother seeking a paternity determination, you should have experienced legal representation to ensure you and your child receive the support you rightfully deserve under the law. Once you do establish paternity, you should also have an attorney helping you through the process of obtaining a child support order from the court and ensuring that any visitation orders are fair if the father would like to share parenting rights.
Call our Fort Lauderdale paternity lawyer for your free consultation
Our experienced Fort Lauderdale paternity lawyer at Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC can help you with your paternity issue in Broward, Miami-Dade or Palm Beach County. If you have questions, visit our office in Fort Lauderdale. We are located north of Davie Boulevard, close to Broward Hospital and just three blocks from the county courthouse. Call us today at 954.817.0402 or contact us online.