Establishing paternity is something a father should do ASAP if he wants any rights in the future. It’s also important for a mother, so she can ensure she that receives the financial help she needs to raise the child – regardless of whether the father remains a part of that child’s life.
Acknowledgement of paternityThe unmarried couple signs a legal document, either in the hospital when the child is born, or later. If done at the hospital, the unmarried mother and the child's father can fill out and sign the Paternity Acknowledgement form DH-511 in the presence of two witnesses or a notary. If done after the parents leave the hospital, the unwed mother and the child's father can fill out and sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. It is very important to understand that this is only evidence of paternity but not enough to establish paternity in Florida. A father still must establish paternity by filing a case and getting a Final Order Establishing Paternity. If the father refuses to voluntarily sign a paternity statement, legal action can be taken to establish paternity in order for a court-ordered child support arrangement to be made. If a man is not sure he is actually the father, he should not sign any document, by signing it he will be held financially responsible for the child. A paternity test can be conducted to determine whether the man is the father of the child.
Court OrderA judge can establish paternity through a court order and this is the only way the father will have rights to contact and access to his child. The state asks the court to hear the case and then a judge decides if paternity is established or not. Based on the evidence, the judge may issue an order that says the man is the child's father. A judge can also establish paternity in other kinds of court actions, such as divorce or dependency. If there is a Court proceeding establishing paternity, then the father can also ask for timesharing with the child. This is different than an Administrative proceeding, which is only for child support, and which does not allow the father any parental rights.
Administrative OrderIf there is a child support proceeding, there may be an Order for genetic testing. If the testing shows that the man is the father of the child, paternity is established. Child support can now be assessed. It is very important to understand that a father cannot claim parental rights- contact and access- to a child- through an Administrative proceeding. The results of the testing can be used in a Court proceeding to establish paternity, but the father must petition the court for contact with and access to the child.