Paternity is the legal establishment of a relationship between a father and a child.
The ways to establish paternity are as follows:
- Voluntary acknowledgment by signing a birth certificate
- Being married at the time of the child’s birth (the husband is legally established as father)
- Administrative hearing – such as in a Department of Revenue case for child support
- File a stipulation of paternity with the clerk of court
- Affidavit of paternity, which is a notarized voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, witnessed by two adults and signed under penalty of perjury by both parties
- Petition for Paternity filed in circuit court
Signing a birth certificate creates a rebuttable presumption of a father’s paternity. This means that if you sign the birth certificate, you are assumed to be the father unless someone challenges it.
If a child is born out of wedlock (meaning their parents are not married), then the mother is the child’s natural guardian under the law. This status entitles her to primary residential care and custody of the child unless a court enters an order stating otherwise.
If parents are unmarried, there is no legal right to ask the court for things like child support, parental responsibility, time-sharing, and a parenting plan until paternity has been established. Establishing paternity creates the legal right to ask the court for these things.
During a divorce, the court must decide on a co-parenting plan based on the best interests of the child(ren). It is the public policy of Florida that each minor child should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents get separated or divorced. State law also encourages parents to share the rights and responsibilities – and joys – of raising their children.
Visit the Florida Department of Revenue for more information on paternity issues.
Florida’s Safe Haven Law
Under Florida’s Safe Haven law, a parent may drop off their newborn infant within seven days of birth at any hospital emergency department, staffed fire rescue station, or staffed emergency medical service station in Florida. If that parent changes their mind, they may claim their newborn until the court enters a judgment terminating their parental rights. The parent must make such a claim to whoever has physical or legal custody of the newborn infant, or to the circuit court before whom proceedings involving the infant are pending.
Under the Safe Haven law, the parent leaving the baby does not have to answer any questions and can remain anonymous, except when there is actual or suspected child abuse or neglect. If a parent leaves a baby in an unsafe place instead of a designated “Safe Haven,” they may face criminal charges.