WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ESTABLISH PATERNITY?
• Why is paternity important?
• What if paternity is contested? Can I get a DNA test?
• What if I think I have a child and want to be sure my rights are not terminated?
Establishing paternity means legally determining the father of a child. If a child’s parents were not married to each other when the child was born, the law does not recognize a father unless paternity is legally established. Parents have both rights and responsibilities, and establishing paternity ensures that both parents have all of these rights and responsibilities. Establishing paternity can be very simple for people who are not incarcerated. They are able to sign an affidavit, also called a “paternity acknowledgement” form, either in the hospital when the baby is born or at a local Health Department or Department of Children and Families office, swearing that they are the biological parents. Both mother and father have 60 days to rescind this affidavit, but after that time, they would have to go to court to prove that they were forced to sign or defrauded.
For incarcerated parents, the issues are much more complicated and likely require court involvement. The issue may arise as an independent issue, or in relation to other issues
before the court, such as divorce, child support, visitation, or termination of parental rights.
If you are involved in a court matter in which the issue of paternity arises, you can “stipulate” to paternity. This means that you can sign a legal document that establishes paternity by
agreement of the parties. This document will be filed with the court. It legally establishes paternity. This section explains what legal paternity is, how it can be established, and why it is important for parents, children, and caregivers.
If the issue of paternity is contested, and the parties cannot agree about who the biological father of a child is, the court may hold a hearing to establish paternity. Genetic testing may be employed to determine biological paternity. A sample motion requesting DNA testing follows this section. In Florida, courts have recognized that there may be a right to a jury trial on the issue of paternity, although this would be rare.
“Florida Putative Father Registry”
If you think you may have fathered a child in Florida, and do not want to let your rights be terminated if the mother cannot care for the child, you should register with the Florida Putative Father Registry. Florida law has created a registry that allows a man who believes that he may be the biological father of a child to preserve his rights as a parent regardless of whether the mother wants to acknowledge him or not. “Putative” here simply means that you believe that you are the biological father of a child. If you have established paternity through marriage, signed acknowledgement, or court order, you are not required to register to preserve your parental rights. If you are unsure of whether you are legally established as the father of the child, you may wish to register to preserve your rights.
Registering with the Putative Father Registry gives you certain rights and may also bring certain responsibilities:
• You have the right to be notified before the child is adopted.
• If genetic testing establishes that you are the father, you will be given the opportunity to
•You may be required to pay child support.
You must be registered before any legal proceedings involving the child have begun. If you believe that you may have fathered a child, and want to preserve your rights, you must register with the Office of Vital Statistics, Florida Department of Health. A fee may be required for registration. appropriate scientific testing of the biological samples of Petitioner and Respondent and the minor child(ren) listed below, so that a determination of paternity of the minor child(ren) can be made to a reasonable degree of medical certainty:
Link for the entire Florida Manual for Incarcerated Parents (sample forms included):
Authored by: Virginia Hamner, Attorney at Law, Equal Justice Works Fellow,
and Mikayla Bucci, Florida Bar Foundation Fellow
For questions about this manual, please contact: Florida Institutional Legal Services
12921 SW 1st Road, Ste. 107, #346
Newberry, FL 32669
phone: (352) 375-2494
fax: (352) 331-5202