St. Petersburg Paternity Lawyer
Strange as it may seem, a child who is born to unmarried parents has no legal father unless affirmative steps are taken to establish paternity officially and in compliance with Florida law. Knowing one’s parentage is essential for medical reasons and psychological well-being, and having paternity officially determined is crucial for a child to access health insurance and government assistance such as Veteran’s benefits or Social Security through the father. In the context of divorce and family law, paternity is vital to obtaining court orders for child custody and visitation, as well as child support. The St. Petersburg paternity lawyers at Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A. represent mothers, fathers, children and other interested parties in Pinellas County paternity proceedings. Call our office if you are filing or responding to a paternity lawsuit, or if you need guidance regarding your options for declaring or challenging paternity in Florida.
How Paternity Can Be Established in Florida
For parents who are not married when the child is born, they can establish paternity by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. The hospital can provide this form, or it can be retrieved later from the Florida Department of Health. Both mother and father should sign the form, either in front of two witnesses or a notary public. Once completed, the form can be turned in to the hospital or mailed to the Office of Vital Statistics. If the parents later marry before acknowledging paternity, the husband becomes the legal father through legitimation.
If paternity is not established voluntarily, the mother, father or child can bring an action in court for a judicial determination. A paternity case could also allege that another man and not the husband is the biological father. Marriage at the time of birth only creates a rebuttable presumption that the husband is the father. DNA testing, as well as other evidence, may be introduced to prove or challenge paternity. The experienced paternity litigators at Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., provide effective advocacy to plaintiffs and defendants in any of the above contested proceedings.
How Paternity Impacts Time-Sharing and Parenting
An unmarried father who wishes to participate in his child’s life might want to establish paternity. Legal parentage is needed to get an enforceable court order for child custody and visitation, including both time-sharing and a parenting role. The court would still consider a host of factors before deciding to make some award of sole or joint custody to the father, but getting paternity determined is a necessary first step.
How Paternity Affects Child Support
Both parents are legally obligated to support their children financially, regardless of whether they are divorcing or were never married to begin with. To get a court order forcing the father to pay child support, the mother would first have to establish paternity through some legal proceeding. Once paternity has been established, courts can order child support regardless of whether the father is sharing in custody or playing any parental role in the child’s life. With a valid order for support in hand, the mother could enforce payments through withholding wages, intercepting tax returns, contempt of court motions and other means. A mother seeking support or a putative father wishing to avoid a support obligation should obtain legal representation from an experienced Florida paternity lawyer.
Contact Our Experienced St. Petersburg Paternity Lawyers Today
To learn more about your options regarding paternity and its impact on you and your family, or for advice and representation in a paternity proceeding in St. Petersburg or Pinellas County, contact Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., by calling 727-822-4929 or filling out our online contact form.