Being a father seems simple—the child calls you “Dad” and recognizes you as their father. However, it is not always that straightforward.
While married fathers are automatically given paternity rights and assumed to be the child’s legal father, unmarried fathers must establish paternity to assert their legal paternal rights, including visitation and custody. Similarly, unmarried mothers must establish the father’s paternity to pursue child support.
Paternity refers to the official recognition of a child’s father and includes all the legal responsibilities and rights of fatherhood. An establishment of paternity can provide the child with health and life insurance, family medical history, financial support, and a right to inheritances and benefits.
If you believe you are a child’s father but are not yet legally recognized as such, contact the O’Mara Law Group. Our Florida child custody lawyers have over 35 years of experience in family law and criminal defense. Book a free consultation with one of our lawyers to learn how we can help you establish legal paternity.
How Long Does a Father Have To Establish Paternity?
A father has until the child turns 22 to file a legal action establishing paternity in Florida under the state’s statute of limitations. However, we recommended that a father file a paternity action as early as possible to avoid potential challenges that may arise.
Some of the rights and benefits of establishing paternity of the child include the following:
- Access to family medical history: The child will have access to their family’s complete medical history and the conditions or diseases to which they may be predisposed. Children unsure of their biological father’s identity do not have the right to get this information from them, even as adults. A paternity order will state the child’s biological father so the mother or child can get the information.
- Father’s name on the birth certificate: The child will have your name on their birth certificate, and they will have legal proof you are the father. This simple documentation gives your child more confidence about who they are and where they come from. It may also encourage contact with your side of the family, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives.
- More time with the father: Fathers who fail to establish paternity give up their rights to spend time with their children. In contrast, fathers who establish paternity usually receive visitation time, which means they have more time to build a stronger relationship with their children. The only exceptions are when the father has a history of serious substance or domestic abuse issues.
- Father has a say in raising the child: Fathers with established paternity have a say in raising their children. This means you can participate in decisions about the child’s education, health care, and upbringing.
- Child support: In Florida, it is mandatory for parents to financially support their children. Confirming paternity will determine responsibility for providing child support.
- Health insurance and other types of support from either parent: Once you have established paternity, your child may be eligible to receive health insurance and other types of support from you, including veterans’ benefits.
What Is the Difference Between a Biological Father and a Legal Father?
A biological father is the man who impregnated the biological mother, resulting in the child’s birth.
In contrast, a legal father is:
- The mother’s registered partner or husband at the time of the child’s birth, unless someone denies his paternity by submitting a paternity claim
- The man who adopts or acknowledges the child
- The man who has been declared the child’s father by a court
Many biological fathers are legal fathers, but not all legal fathers are biological fathers. When a married couple has a child, the law automatically recognizes the husband as the child’s legal father. However, when the parents are unmarried, an official action is necessary to establish legal fatherhood.
If the parents agree, they can sign a Paternity Acknowledgment form. Otherwise, a paternity action filed in court may be necessary.
How Long Does It Take To Establish Paternity in Orlando, Florida?
The length of time for establishing paternity in Florida varies depending on several factors:
- The case itself: The case’s complexity, contested issues, and strength of evidence can affect the length of time to establish paternity. If there is a disagreement about the father’s biological relationship with the child, the court may require genetic testing, which can extend the paternity establishment timeline.
- The parties’ relationship: If the alleged father, mother, and child provide the necessary documentation and information, the process will move faster. If any party refuses to comply, the timeline for establishing paternity will be delayed and prolonged.
- The legal process’ speed: The county court’s caseload, the number of available resources and judges, and the scheduling of proceedings and hearings can also affect the timeline. If the court has many urgent matters, non-emergency cases such as paternity determinations may be delayed.
- Whether the parties request extensions: The timeline may also be extended if the parties request extensions to gather additional evidence and accommodate conflicting schedules.
An attorney from the O’Mara Law Group can provide you with an estimate of how long it may take to establish paternity.
Who Can File a Paternity Order?
Under Florida law, the following people can commence a paternity action:
- Any woman who has a child or is pregnant
- The man who believes he is the child’s father or who has been identified by another as the child’s father
- A legal representative acting on the child’s behalf
Talk to the O’Mara Law Group to learn how to file a paternity order.
Can You Modify a Paternity Order?
Florida statutes allow you to modify existing paternity orders if the original orders become outdated due to vagueness or a change in circumstances, and the proposed changes are in the child’s best interests.
However, parties must meet a higher standard to modify custody and time-sharing rights. The person seeking to modify these rights must prove there has been an unanticipated and substantial material change in circumstances. In other words, they must prove something new has happened the original action did not account for.
Can I Relocate if I Have a Paternity Order?
Florida laws are strict when it comes to relocation with a child. According to Florida Statute 61.13001, you cannot relocate with the child more than 50 miles away without the other parent’s permission or court approval.
If you plan to move, talk to the O’Mara Law Group to learn more about your legal options.
Rely on the O'Mara Law Group
If you are looking for a compassionate family lawyer in Orlando, Florida, contact the O’Mara Law Group. Our team of experienced family, custody, and divorce lawyers specializes in paternity cases, ensuring you can safeguard your rights and your child’s welfare. We perform several critical tasks for interested parties:
- Explain the process of establishing paternity
- Help you collect relevant evidence for your claim, such as correspondence, genetic tests, and records supporting your claim
- File paperwork on and ahead of deadlines
- Prepare you for hearings
- Help you follow court-ordered obligations
Fill out this form or call (407) 634-6604 to learn more about how we can help you.