Can You Disestablish Paternity?
Families take many forms nowadays, and they aren’t always traditional. Plenty of children are born to unmarried parents, who are loving and caring and provide great home environments for their kids. But if you are unmarried and have a child, there are some legal issues that you may want to keep in mind when it comes to establishment of paternity.
How Paternity is Established
Florida law looks at the parties’ marital status at the time of the child’s birth–not at the time of conception. Thus, if the parents are married when the child is born, the child will be presumed to be that of both mom and dad.
This is true even if mom had an affair, or even if the parties did not know each other at the time of conception.
If both the mother and father agree who the father is, both parties can sign an acknowledgement of paternity. This document becomes effective 60 days after it is signed, after which point it can only be revoked by a showing of coercion, fraud or duress.
If the parties don’t agree to paternity, a court action will have to be filed. Since most parents who don’t believe a child is theirs aren’t in a hurry to pay child support, paternity actions usually are accompanied by actions to establish paternity if they are filed by the mother. However, either party, mom or dad, can ask the court to determine paternity.
Remember that the establishment of paternity will provide the father the right to time sharing and visitation if the parents ever split up–but it also could obligate the father to child support payments in the event of a breakup.
What if You are Misled?
What if the father, unmarried to the mother when the child is born, is misled about paternity–for example, if the mother had an affair that the father did not know about when he agreed to paternity?
To disestablish paternity, a party must file an action in court, showing that new evidence, which was not known at the time paternity was established or agreed to, has been discovered.
A DNA test must be taken to establish that the child is not that of the father filing for disestablishment. If for some reason the DNA is not available to take a test (for example, a DNA sample cannot be taken from the child), the petitioner can state that, and ask that the court order a DNA test be taken.
Importantly, child support payments must be up to date. If you doubt paternity, you should not stop making child support payments, and then file for disestablishment of paternity, but rather, should keep payments current until the court makes a ruling.
A court can look at statements the alleged father makes, in determining paternity. If the father holds himself out as a child’s father to friends, family and the public, any statements to that effect can be used against the father’s effort to disestablish paternity.
If you are unmarried at the time your child was born, make sure your rights are protected. Our Tampa paternity attorneys at the Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can help you with your family law and paternity problems.