The law has different means for establishing a father’s parental rights. For example, a man who is married to the child’s mother at the time of conception or birth is presumed to be the father. If the couple is unmarried, the man can acknowledge paternity and provide support for the child as a married father would. In other circumstances, a court order may name a man as a child’s father. However, sometimes facts come to light after a child’s birth which calls fatherhood into question. In that instance, a father may need to consider contesting paternity.
Disestablishment of Paternity
Florida law provides that when a father wants to contest paternity, he may seek disestablishment of paternity. What this law does is create a way for a father to make corrections regarding the paternity of a child as well as discontinue any active child support obligations.
What is the Process?
To begin, the named father will file a petition seeking to disestablish paternity and, if applicable, terminate child support. The father is required to serve the mother and the Florida Department of Revenue as well.
Where to File?
If there is a child support order, the petition will have to be filed in the same circuit court which has jurisdiction over the child support order. If there is not a child support order, the father will file in the circuit court where the mother or legal guardian resides. If the mother and child have left the state, then the petitioner can file in the circuit court where he lives.
What Must be Proven?
The father must include the following with his petition:
· An affidavit or a sworn statement that "newly discovered evidence" relating to the paternity of the child has come to his knowledge since his paternity was initially determined or his child support obligation was established.
· The results of scientific tests that are generally acceptable within the scientific community. The test must have been administered within 90 days of the petition being filed and show that he is not in all statistical likelihood, the father. In the absence of test results, he can file an affidavit which says he did not have access to the child to perform this type of testing.
- An affidavit from the father he is current on any child support obligations or, if he is not, an explanation for this delinquency.
Granting a Disestablishment of Paternity
The court will grant the father’s petition provided it finds that:
· The newly discovered evidence was truly discovered since paternity was established (i.e., If the father knew he was not the biological father he cannot later claim he did not have that knowledge);
· The genetic testing was conducted correctly and shows he is indeed not the father;
· He is current on any child support payment for the child, or he has an acceptable reason for being delinquent;
· He is not the adoptive father;
· The child was not conceived by artificial insemination while he was married to the mother;
· He did not prevent the biological father of the child from asserting his paternal rights concerning the child; and
· The child was younger than 18 years of age when the petition was filed.
Denying a Petition for Disestablishment
In the event the father properly complies with the petition for disestablishment, the court can still deny his petition if, after learning he is not the biological father of the child, he:
· Married the child’s mother and told others he was the father or voluntarily starting paying child support;
· Completed a sworn statement he is the father;
· Voluntarily promised in writing to support the child and was required to support the child based on that promise;
· Permitted his name to be on the birth certificate or signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity; or
· Ignored or disregarded a notice from a state agency to submit to genetic testing.
Disestablishment of paternity involves presenting evidence regarding numerous factors. At the Draper Law Firm, we have experience in helping people with their paternity matters and can help you understand the process and your options. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation. We invite you to learn more about our firm here.