Family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard B. Barkin deal with paternity (parentage) issues in divorce and beyond, particularly as they relate to the father's right to request time-sharing under Florida law.
When a child is born to unmarried parents, questions of paternity may arise. The easiest way to establish paternity is to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, which can be executed at the hospital or at a later date after the birth of the child. If the mother and reputed father do in fact marry at any time after the child's birth, then parentage is legally established in the husband and wife. These actions may of course be challenged by another man claiming to be the natural father of the child. A voluntary acknowledgement can also be rescinded within 60 days of its signing, or later challenged in court on the basis of fraud, duress, or mistake.
Either a mother, putative father, or child can bring suit to establish paternity. Most often, the mother is seeking to establish the legal father for the purpose of obtaining a court order for child support. The father may also bring a paternity action, because along with the legal obligation to support the child comes the legal right to share in custody or have established visitation rights.
Paternity hearings are conducted in the judge's chambers, after which the judge determines paternity and the ability of the parents to support the child. A paternity judgment may contain an explicit award of custody, or it may order support and establish visitation rights in one parent, in which case primary custody is considered to belong to the other parent. If no order is made, custody is presumed to be with the mother.
Sometimes when the mother has primary custody and remarries, the stepfather may wish to adopt the child. If the father voluntarily consents to the adoption, then his parental rights are terminated, along with any obligation to pay child support. An adoption over the objection of the legal father is harder to obtain and generally requires that the father has abandoned the child and not paid any support for a period of time.
If it later comes to light that the person granted legal parentage is not in fact the biological father, it is possible to disestablish paternity through legal proceedings. The law regarding disestablishment of paternity is actually quite complex, and it depends upon a variety of circumstances whether or not the court will grant such a request.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation
Given the important and lasting consequences of establishing legal parentage, it is highly advisable that you seek the advice of a qualified lawyer to assist you in this proceeding. If you are seeking to establish, challenge or disestablish paternity, contact the experienced family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard B. Barkin for competent, effective representation.