Paternity Actions are filed in order to assist a parent in acknowledging and protecting important time sharing and support rights. A child’s paternity may be relevant in relation to issues of legitimacy, inheritance and rights to a putative father’s title or surname, as well as the biological father’s rights to custody and obligations for child support.
In Florida, any woman who is pregnant or has a child, a man who has reason to believe that he is the father of a child, or any child may bring proceedings to determine paternity when paternity has not been established. That means a lawsuit can be brought by a private party or by the state. A private action for paternity is usually brought by the mother in order to get support. The state will bring an action through a prosecutor’s office when the mother applies for public assistance in order for the state to be reimbursed for the aid given.
Paternity is the legal and social acknowledgement of the parental relationship between a child and the child’s father. At common law, a child born during a marriage was presumed to be the husband’s child. This presumption could be overcome by evidence that the child was not the husband’s child.
A person identified as the child’s father in a paternity suit is called the putative father. When the suit names the putative father as a defendant in a paternity case, he has a choice of either consenting to the entry of a paternity judgment or contesting the action. For the putative father to consent, he has to sign an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity, which establishes the legal relationship between the father and the child. When the putative father consents to a paternity order, he consents for life. Most courts will not allow him to escape the consequences of the order, which include child support, even if it is later proved that he is not the child’s biological father.
If the putative father denies that he is the father or is not sure, DNA tests will be done on the child, the mother and the putative father. DNA testing has become the most powerful test for determining paternity and is admissible as evidence in paternity trials. Paternity can be established by default when the putative father fails to attend a court hearing or go for testing after he was properly served with notice.
In addition to child support, paternity establishes emotional, social, and economic ties between the father and the child. Once paternity is legally established, the child gains certain legal rights and privileges.