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The Link between Paternity and Fraud

On March 18th, Huffington Post featured an interesting article about the link between paternity tests, family law courts, and fraud. Specifically, the article discussed current issues related to fathers paying child support for children that are not theirs, and, conversely, actual biological fathers being obstructed from having a relationship with their children.

The article cited studies that have found as many as 30 percent of fathers are paying child support when they aren’t even the biological father. And yet, our courts are not yet equipped to make it convenient—or even adequately possible—to technically make adjustments to those child support requirements even if a father has the DNA proof in his hands.

How Is This Possible?

As the law currently works, if a baby is born to a married couple, the husband is presumed to be the biological father of the child and, after signing any paternity acknowledgment at the hospital, is what many would call “locked in.” In other words, if, years later, he discovers that he is not the biological father of the child, the courts often ignore this revelation and still assume that he needs to support the child until the child’s emancipation.

In addition, if and when a child is born out of wedlock and the child’s mother applies for welfare, she is typically required to list the father of the child at that time. This opens up an opportunity for really anyone to be listed as the child’s father, as there is no proof required. This person could then end up having a default judgment issued against them (for providing child support) if they do not show up in court.

Issues for Cohabiting Parents That Break Up

The current situation is also creating a problem for unmarried fathers. While married parents are presumed to have equal custody unless the courts decide otherwise, unwed mothers only have full custody of children until unwed fathers officially establish paternity, which can be a complicated process. For example, in Florida, the procedures required to establish paternity include:

  • Determining paternity within an adjudicatory hearing;
  • Doing so via an affidavit acknowledging paternity that is witnessed by two individuals and signed under penalty of perjury (however, both parents must provide their social security numbers on any acknowledgment of paternity);
  • Doing so via a stipulation of paternity, as executed by both parties and filed with the clerk of the court; or
  • As made via determination within an adjudication by the Department of Revenue.

After a 60-day period, a signed voluntary acknowledgment of paternity then constitutes an official establishment of paternity and can only be challenged in court under certain very specific circumstances. Yet, judicial or administrative proceedings are not required (or permitted) to ratify an unchallenged acknowledgment of paternity.

Contact Us about Your Parental Rights

If you have any questions or concerns about paternity, contact us at the office of Sandra Bonfiglio to find out how we can protect you and your family’s rights. We serve clients in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Broward County, and surrounding areas. We are here to help.

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