Paternity and Father's Rights and Responsibilities FAQ

The definition of family has evolved greatly in the last two generations. Divorce is more common now than ever. People have children from more than one partner, born during marriage or not. DNA now allows us to establish or disestablish that a certain man is the biological father of a child.

Is Paternity Established When I Sign the Birth Certificate?
No. The signing of a birth certificate does not establish the rights of a father. The signing of a birth certificate merely establishes a presumption that the man who signed is the father. However, a Petition to Establish Paternity must be filed to create or establish the parental rights of the father.

How Do I Establish Paternity and Paternal Rights to the Child?
To establish paternity you (either the mother or father) can file a Petition to Establish Paternity with the court. In the Petition, you will request that paternity (i.e. fatherhood) be determined by the Court. Through these legal proceedings the following issues can be addressed: child support, health and medical insurance, time sharing and parenting plans pursuant to Florida law and attorney’s fees.

Do I Have To Take A DNA TEST?
Maybe. If both the mother and alleged father agree on the paternity of the child, then a DNA test is not required. However, if there is a dispute as to the identity of the father, then a DNA test will typically be ordered to determine the proper biological father of the child.

Disestablishment of Paternity – Before discussing the disestablishment of paternity procedure, it is helpful to distinguish between the terms “biological father” and “legal father.” “Biological father” refers to the man that physically fathered the child. Establishing whether a particular man is the biological father of a particular child is typically accomplished through a genetic test.

The “legal father” of a child, however, is that man who has the rights and responsibilities of a parent as to the child. In other words, the “legal father” is the person who has the right to see the child, establish a parental relationship with the child, and participate in decisions concerning the care and raising of the child. It is also the person who has an obligation to support and provide for the child’s needs. A man is determined to be the legal father of a child in one of three basic ways:

  •  Marriage, if he and the mother of the child were married at the time the child was born;
  •  Consent, if he and the mother agree that he is legally responsible for the child; or
  •  Court order, if a court or other agency determines that the man is the child’s legal father.

What kind of things can be requested through a paternity case?

  • Establishment of paternity (in other words, identify the child’s legal father).
  • Establish parental responsibility (decision making authority as it relates to the child).
  • Establish a parenting plan including things such as:
    1. A timesharing schedule for the child and parents.
    2. A holiday timesharing schedule.
    3. Division of extracurricular expenses for the minor child.
  • Establish child support obligation including:
    1. Which parent should provide medical insurance coverage for the child.
    2. Division of unreimbursed reasonable and necessary medical expenses.
    3. Contribution towards pregnancy and birth-related expenses for an unborn child.
  • Division of the child dependency exemption for federal tax purposes.
  • Adding the father’s name to the child’s birth certificate.
  • Changing the child’s name upon establishment of paternity.
  • Payment or contribution towards attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs.

To schedule a confidential consultation with the Palm Beach County attorney, call Elaine M. Simon, Marital and Family Law Attorney at (561) 472-0087.