In Florida, when a child is born to an unmarried couple, the mother is considered the natural custodian of that child. This means that the father does not have the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. Unfortunately, this fact remains unknown to a lot of people. Many fathers of children born out of wedlock believe that simply because they have their names on their children’s birth certificates they have all the legal rights of a parent under the law. This is a very common misconception. In order for a biological father of a child born out of wedlock to have the legal rights of a parent such as custody and visitation, he needs to initiate a court action for Establishment of Paternity.
Establishment of Paternity
Establishment of Paternity is the legal process that creates a legal relationship between a father and a child who is born out of wedlock. In Florida, any woman who is pregnant or has a child, or any man who has reason to believe that he is the father of a child, may bring an action for paternity. Generally, the father initiates a court action for Establishment of Paternity, asking the Court to formally declare him a parent with all the legal rights and responsibilities that come with parenthood. But in some cases, the mother of a child who is born out of wedlock initiates this action in order to have the Court issue an order of Child Support in her favor.
Disestablishment of Paternity
Even if you’ve been declared a “parent” under Florida law, it is always possible to disestablish your paternity and terminate your child support obligation if you are not the biological father of the child. An action for disestablishment of paternity involves an individual who has been previously designated as the father proving to the Court that he is not the biological father of the child and therefore is not legally obligated to support or be responsible for that child. Once paternity is disestablished, the father may be relieved from making further child support payments.
If you are a parent of a child under Florida law but believe you’re not the biological father of that child, then you have the right to challenge your paternity and discontinue paying child support.