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The Pros and Cons of Establishing Paternity in Florida

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 21, 2022

When two parents are not married and the biological father is not present at the birth of a child, the “father” portion of the child’s birth certificate will most likely be left blank. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can fill in that blank by establishing paternity.

Should you do this? Is it worth the legal proceedings and fees for testing? Ultimately that depends on you, your child, and the needs of everyone involved. Before you decide to move forward, we’ve laid out a few pros and cons to think about.

Reasons Establishing Paternity Can Be a Good Thing

Access to Medical History. Having access to a father’s medical history can greatly help a child throughout his or her life. This information will tell a person if they have a high risk of certain diseases or conditions, and it can be crucial during an emergency situation.

Social Security and Financial Benefits. If the child’s father is a veteran or is disabled, the child may have access to certain government benefits. If the father has health insurance, the child can also receive those benefits. And, of course, determining paternity is the first step in getting child support payments. Overall, the child will have more resources and financial support by being able to identity his or her father.

Sense of Identity. Putting financial and legal benefits aside, establishing paternity (especially if it is not confirmed by both parties) has benefits for the child’s development. Knowing our paternal history gives us a clue as to who we are and where we came from.

The Process Can Be Quite Simple. In most cases, the legal parent of the child will just need to sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form to establish paternity. If the mother is not sure who is the father of her child, of if a man disputes paternity a DNA test can put the matter to rest once and for all. In fact, if the issue ends up going to court, the state may require DNA tests to be submitted by the mother, the alleged father, and the child.

Reasons Establishing Paternity Could Be Problematic

Joint Custody May Be Awarded. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but depending on your situation and point of view, it could be. Without the father’s name on the birth certificate, he does not have any legal rights over the child. He cannot ask for joint custody or even visitation rights. Upon establishing paternity, a new custody agreement might be made up. This means that the mother of the child might be required to split her time with the father – even if she doesn’t want to or the child is resistant.

Child Support Payments May Be Put in Place. Again, this could be good or bad depending on how you are impacted. Often, custody rulings come with child support rulings. After rights are given to the biological father, responsibilities may also be given. And when it comes to child support, these responsibilities cannot be avoided. Failing to pay child support can result in charges of contempt of court.

Further Legal Complications. If either parent decides to move out of the state of Florida, legal matters could get even more complicated. There may also be complications if the child’s mother wants to get remarried and would prefer to give legal custody to the child’s step-father, her partner, or another male family member who has taken a more active role in raising the child.

As you can see, there is more complexity in establishing paternity than it might at first seem. Because of this, it is important that you discuss the specifics of your situation with a knowledgeable Florida paternity lawyer and learn about the options that are available to you.