“There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children.”
— Marianne Williamson
PATERNITY AND FATHER’S RIGHTS / UNMARRIED PARENTS
Florida has different legal requirements for unmarried parents with child issues (versus parents who are married). Paternity must be established at the outset before any financial and custodial determinations can be made. There are several ways to establish paternity including notarized acknowledgements of paternity and DNA testing. Once paternity is established, several child issues must be resolved prior to a final judgment. If you need help with co-parenting, child support, parental responsibility, or a timesharing/visitation arrangement, please call The Law Offices of Osman Lopez, P.A. today for a case evaluation.
In the state of Florida, a paternity action must be filed to legally establish someone as the biological father of a child. This is only required for unmarried parents (the state of Florida grants different rights to parents who are married). A paternity action can be brought by either the mother or father of a child. Typically, a mother will start a paternity action to collect child support or because the parents need assistance with co-parenting (for example, struggles with communication, visitations, and making decisions regarding the child). Typically, a father will start a paternity action to assert paternal rights like shared decision-making and time-sharing (visitations). Other parties that can file a paternity suit include the child at issue, the guardian of the child at issue, or the state of Florida if the child’s mother receives public welfare.
There are several ways to establish paternity: (1) the child’s father can file a notarized Acknowledgement of Paternity stating that he is indeed the child’s biological father; or (2) the Court can order a DNA test that proves or disproves the allegation of paternity (this is typically ordered when the alleged father denies being the child’s father). Once paternity is established, financial and custodial determinations can be made. The Court will require that the parties file financial affidavits, complete a 4-hour online parenting course, file child support guidelines, and draft a parenting plan that outlines a detailed time-sharing schedule (visitations), how the parties will make decisions regarding the child (parental responsibility), who will claim the child on their income tax, and how expenses will be divided. If the parties cannot reach an agreement amongst themselves or at mediation, the case will be
set for trial and the Judge will make every determination.
Once paternity is established, a mother can also receive ongoing child support. The mother can also collect up to 24 months (2 years) of retroactive (prior unpaid) child support. The Court can enter an Income Withholding Order to ensure compliance with child support obligations; an Income Withholding Order automatically withdraws the monthly child support amount from the payor’s paycheck. If a mother had filed a separate Child Support case through the State Attorney’s Office, the Department of Revenue will intervene in the paternity case.
II. Disestablishment of Paternity
Florida law presumes that a man is the father of a child if he was married to the mother of the child when she conceived. The man is automatically presumed the child’s legal father. However, there are children born during a marriage who are not common to the parties (that is, a wife, while married, had a child or became pregnant with someone other than her husband). In this instance, the presumed legal father can file a paternity action to disestablish himself as the child’s father, enjoining the child’s mother and the child’s biological father. Affidavits are required before a final judgment can be entered, such as a notarized Acknowledgement of Paternity by the child’s biological father. Accordingly, language will be included in the final judgment relieving the former husband / legal father from any and all parental obligations including child support.
III. Unmarried Parents Who Are Still In A Relationship
Sometimes, unmarried parents who are still in a relationship commence a paternity action. The reasons to do this are important and wise: it offers couples the chance to consider a future parenting plan under non-hostile, non-contentious conditions; it lets the father add the child to his health insurance plan; and it allows the child to be a recipient of his father’s benefits (for example, social security benefits) or inheritance.
Paternity Settlement Agreement Issues:
- What will the timesharing/visitation arrangement be between the parents and child(ren) once the case is finalized?
- Which parent will be responsible for covered and uncovered health insurance costs?
- Which parent will be responsible for childcare costs?
- Which parent will have a monthly child support obligation?
- Will an Income Withholding Order be necessary?
- Can the obligatory (the parent paying the support) or the oblige (the parent receiving the support) request an upward or downward deviation from the child support guidelines?
- Does income need to be imputed on any parent?
- Will the parents make major decisions jointly (shared parental responsibility), or will one parent have ultimate decision-making authority? Or is there a basis to petition the Court for sole parental responsibility?
- Which parent’s address will be used to determine the child(ren)’s school zone?
- How will holidays and school vacation breaks be divided between the parents?
- Which parent will claim the child(ren) for tax purposes?
- Can both parents travel outside the county, state, or country with the child(ren)?
This list of child issues is not exhaustive, but they are all issues that must be resolved before a judge can grant a final judgment in a paternity case. The Law Offices of Osman Lopez, P.A. has represented both mothers and fathers in paternity cases. Attorney Osman Lopez will work to prepare a parenting plan that resolves all of your outstanding child issues. We will also guide you through the remaining statutory requirements, including a 4-Hour online Parenting Course, Child Support Guidelines, and Financial Affidavits. Attorney Osman Lopez takes a comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent post-judgment issues and future litigation. However, should there be an unanticipated change in circumstances (for example, a parent needs to relocate; a parent loses their job), Attorney Osman Lopez is skilled and prepared to represent your modification request. An amicable and collaborative approach can be the most cost-effective approach in paternity suits. Attorney Osman Lopez has an exceptional track record of negotiating, mediating, and settling cases before trial or prolonged litigation. However, if collaboration is not feasible, Attorney Osman Lopez will aggressively litigate your matter in court. Call (305) 744-5229 today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation and consultation.