Paternity Pitfalls: What Unmarried Fathers and Mothers in Florida Need to Know
Establishing paternityIf dad's name is on the birth certificate, there is a presumption of paternity. However, for visitation and child support purposes, additional steps need to be taken before support is awarded or visitation is established. The first step is to establish paternity through a legal proceeding. If both parties agree, then an order is entered establishing paternity. If there is any disagreement, then a DNA test will be ordered. In either case, a court order establishing paternity is the basis for mom and dad to establish their legal rights and obligations.
Moving awayThis is one of the most common reasons why unmarried mothers or fathers contact my office. Mom and dad are no longer together and the person with whom the child lives wishes to move away, or, in some cases, simply packs up and leaves. Without a court order on paternity, the parent seeking to prevent the move may face even greater obstacles, especially in dad's case where there is nothing establishing that the child is his.
It is a lot easier, any costs less money, to have a court decide where a child should live before the child's parent moves away. While Florida will enforce the rights of fathers in these situations, getting a court order to require mom to return to Florida with the child is a time consuming and expensive procedure, with no guarantee of success.
Child supportMany moms and dads tend to forget that a child support obligation begins at the child's birth (although, in certain situations, dad can be held responsible for some of mom's medical expenses while pregnant). This means that, if there is an action brought for child support when the child is, say, 6 years old, retroactive support will be awarded for the prior 6 year period, with credits allowed for payments to the parent seeking support that can be proven. Most people do not keep records of all payments they have made over 6 or more years. Anyone who is paying child support voluntarily without a court order needs to be especially careful to document each and every payment that has been made, especially in the case of cash payments.
The above are just a few examples of the pitfalls of paternity. Anyone who has a child with an unmarried partner and who has questions about their rights and responsibilities, is encouraged to contact an attorney to find out more information.