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How does a father establish paternity in Florida?

Just as it is in any state, establishing paternity is important here in Florida. Many people consider it the first step toward connecting a child with their father but it's also more than that. Paternity also establishes a father's parental rights when it comes to custody and visitation. Furthermore, paternity is a valuable piece of knowledge when it comes to establishing support orders as well.

But as you may already know, not every state establishes paternity the same way. This process is governed by a set of state laws that, if misunderstood, could create confusion and legal issues you might not be prepared to handle on your own. In this week's blog post we will address one of the many questions our Florida readers might have at this moment about establishing paternity in our state.

How does a father establish paternity in Florida?

Here in Florida, there are five ways in which the government can establish paternity. The first is through marriage. The law assumes that if a couple is married, the husband is the child's legal father. When a child is born after marriage, paternity does not need to be established, it is implicit.

The second way is through the Paternity Acknowledgement form. This process only applies to unmarried couples and can be done either before or after the child is born. The form asserts that the male spouse is the father of the child, giving him parental rights and responsibilities associated with caring for the child.

The third way is through genetic testing. This is often done in instances where a man does not believe he is the father but is presumed to be by the courts. A paternity -- or DNA test -- will tell for sure if the man is the child's biological father or not.

The fourth way is through a court order, which can also require a man to take a paternity test, while the fifth way is through legitimation, which occurs when an unmarried couple marries after the child is born thereby making the man the child's legal father.

It's worth pointing out that while establishing paternity is legally binding, certain circumstances may necessitate the de-establishment of paternity. In next week's blog post, we will discuss whether this is possible in our state.

Source: The Florida Department of Revenue, "Establishing Legal Paternity," Accessed Oct. 21, 2014

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