Thursday, June 7, 2012

                                               WHEN IS A FATHER NOT A FATHER?

Are you a Father that has a child that was not born during a marriage?  Are you a Father currently living with your significant other and child?  If so, did you know that in Florida you most likely do not have any parental rights to that child?

Many Father’s do not realize that just signing a birth certificate does not legally give you rights to your child if you were not married to the child’s mother at the time of birth.  In Florida, a Father who signs the birth certificate is merely presumed to be the legal Father.  In order for a Father to have legal rights to a child, he has to go through a process called a Paternity Action.  During this Paternity Action, the Father can be established and recognized as the minor child’s legal Father.  Prior to this action, the Father does not have any rights except in a few situations. 

One of the mains exceptions to this rule is where the Mother has instituted a Department of Revenue Administrative Action against you.  Thereafter, if the Department of Revenue determines, either by admission, failure to respond, or DNA test, that you are the biological Father of the minor child, then the Department of Revenue can establish child support and hold you accountable to provide for the minor child.  However, this is not the same thing as a Paternity Action in Family Law Court.  The Department of Revenue can only deal with money issues.  In order to have your rights, whether they are visitation or parental responsibilities, established you must go through a separate Paternity Action in Family Court.  Until you do so, you will have no rights to the minor child, other than the responsibility to pay child support. 

Therefore, if you have not been legally adjudicated to be the legal father of your child, or if you are unsure if your rights have been established, you should contact a family law attorney to find out your rights.  Even if you are currently living with the Mother of the child, it is still important for Father’s to be declared the legal Father of the minor child, incase something were to happen to the Mother.  If you are not already designated as the legal father, this could cause you problems or even allow the minor child to be removed from your care, should something happen to the Mother.   

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--Jamie V. Simons, Esquire