A paternity action is necessary when parties have a child out of wedlock. If parties are not married, the State of Florida only recognizes the mother as the natural parent of a child. While it is true that the father on the child’s birth certificate is presumed to be the father, the State will not recognize the father’s rights until established in the court with a paternity action. Upon the initiation of a paternity action, the parties will either admit or deny whether the father is the natural parent of the child. If there is a denial, both parents have the right to a paternity test to determine if the party in the case is actually the father. Once it is established that the party to the paternity action is, in fact, the father, the courts will recognize the party as the natural father of the minor child(ren) in question, establish a parenting plan, and child support. Keep in mind that if paternity is established when the child is older, the father may have to contend with retroactive and/or child support arrears that can be cumbersome and expensive. It is important to establish paternity early in a child’s life to avoid issues in the future.
Consult with an attorney upon being served with or initiating a paternity action. Paternity actions, including child support proceedings related to paternity actions, can be extremely contentious and sometimes complex. Depending on the age of the child, a settlement or a judge’s ruling could follow you for 18 years or more. It is important to understand what your rights are before signing any document or walking into court.