What to do in Florida if you suspect you’re NOT the father

Have you been providing financial support for a child, but suspect it might not be your responsibility because the child could be someone else’s? Or, have you been served with a summons and complaint for a paternity action and don’t know how to respond? 

Do not delay! The circumstances can vary, but if you have been in an intimate relationship with a woman and she has given birth to a child that may be yours, it is smart to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible about your legal rights.

Florida paternity actions 

If you have been served in a paternity suit, you must answer within a short time frame to preserve your rights, so speaking to an attorney quickly is of the essence. If you do not respond to the suit, you could be named the father by default. Instead, in the paternity suit, you can deny paternity and request that the judge order a blood test to resolve the matter. 

If you are adjudicated to be the father, you could be ordered to pay child support and to provide health insurance or help with medical costs for the child. 

The mother or the state of Florida could bring a paternity suit, but you as the potential father can also file it to legally settle the matter. Within that lawsuit, the court can order a DNA test to biologically establish whether you are the father. 

Legal fatherhood 

Legal (but not necessarily biological) fatherhood can be established in Florida by virtue of being married to the mother, or by an agreement or acknowledgement executed by the mother and father jointly. Once legal fatherhood has been established, challenging that status is difficult and it must be shown that it would be in the child’s best interest to undue that status in favor of the possibility that someone else is the biological father. 

A man who is a legal, but not biological, father, though, may be able to disavow parentage in a divorce or other legal proceeding, but Florida courts have given mixed results in such attempts. 

These situations can be very complex and emotional for all involved. Talk to a paternity lawyer if you are questioning whether you are the father of a child to understand your legal options and the pros and cons of steps you could choose to take.

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  • The Law Office of Daniel E. Forrest represents individuals in Fort Lauderdale in high-asset divorce matters. Daniel Forrest is board-certified family lawyer and mediator serving the South Florida area.
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