Disestablishing Paternity In Florida
The Florida court system is designed to protect the rights and interests of children. When a child is born into a marriage, that child is considered to be legitimate. The fact that modern science now offers us the tools to prove or disprove biological paternity might not mean that we necessarily should, especially if disestablishing paternity would harm the emotional life of the child.
What makes a father?
Paternity has two legal implications:
- Obligation to provide financial support until the age of majority
- Legal right to visitation or time-sharing
In cases that involve divorce within two years of a child’s birth or of parents who have never been married, there is an option available for a man who has been named as the father to prove that he is not the biological father. In this case, he can petition the court to disestablish paternity and then prove his status with a DNA swab. DNA is the only evidence admissible in the court’s proceedings.
How to disestablish paternity
A man can disestablish paternity if he meets the following conditions:
- The petition is submitted within two years of the child’s birth or the father’s notification that he may not be the child’s father.
- DNA samples are obtained only with full consent of all parties involved, either voluntarily or by court order.
- The child was not adopted or conceived by artificial insemination while the parents were married.
- He does not owe any child support payments.
Disestablishing paternity might be advantageous for a man who is financially supporting a child he did not father, but the loss of a parental relationship can have a devastating emotional affect on the child.
When you shouldn’t disestablish paternity
The motion to disestablish paternity must be filed within two years of the child’s birth, so as not to disrupt the parent-child relationship that has been established. In Florida’s most renowned paternity case — Parker v. Parker — Richard Parker attempted to disestablish paternity three years after the couple’s divorce. The court denied his motion based on the fact that, while he was not the child’s biological father, he was still the only father the child had ever known. As much as the court did not want to deny the child financial support, the greater incentive was to maintain the continuity of the relationship.
Family attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, PA is available to speak with you about fathers’ rights and the process of proving or disestablishing paternity. Our offices serve the Fort Lauderdale area.