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Articles Posted in Paternity

When it is not clear who the father of a child is, both the child’s mother and any potential father have the right to file a paternity action. A determination of paternity not only opens the door for the father to seek parental rights like custody of the child, but it also allows the court to impose obligations on the father, like the duty to pay child support. If a court’s judgment of paternity fails to include necessary information, though, it may be reversed, as shown in a recent Florida ruling set forth in a paternity case. If you have questions regarding establishing parental rights or enforcing parental obligations, it is advisable to meet with an experienced Florida paternity lawyer to evaluate your options.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the mother instituted a paternity action to establish the identity of the father of her child. The court ultimately issued a final judgment of paternity, naming the father. The mother appealed, citing four issues. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling as to two of the issues without comment. As to the remaining two issues, however, the court found in favor of the mother. As such, it reversed the final judgment and remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

Final Judgments in Paternity Matters

The two issues the appellate court addressed on appeal were whether the trial court erred in neglecting to include a parenting plan in the record and failing to attach the child support guidelines worksheet to the final order. The court noted that the father conceded that these documents were forgotten due to a scrivener’s error. The appellate court explained that, pursuant to Florida law, it must reverse an order granted child support if the child support guidelines worksheet is not attached to the final judgment. Continue reading ›

Generally, a man that is the biological father of a child can seek parental rights.  Relatively recent advances in reproductive technology can result in situations in which it is necessary to determine whether a man is a child’s father or merely a sperm donor. For example, in a recent Florida case, a former couple called on a court to determine whether a man had paternity rights over a child born via IVF. If you need assistance with a paternity matter, it is advisable to speak to a Florida paternity lawyer to determine what steps you can take to protect your interests.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the father and the mother were involved in a romantic relationship, during which they entered into a contract to have a child via in vitro fertilization. The IVF transfer took place in September 2019, but the parties ended their relationship a month later. The child was born in June 2020. Shortly thereafter, the father filed a paternity lawsuit seeking parental rights on the grounds that he and the mother were a commissioning couple as defined by Florida law.

Allegedly, the mother moved to dismiss his petition, arguing that he was merely a sperm donor. During the hearing on the motion to dismiss, the trial court sought evidence from both parties without notice, after which it found the parties were a commissioning couple and granted the father parental rights. The mother appealed, arguing that the trial court violated her due process rights by holding an evidentiary hearing without notice. Continue reading ›

This past January was an important anniversary to many gay and lesbian couples in Florida. Five years ago on January 6, same-sex couples were, for the first time, legally able to marry in the Sunshine State. With that event, and with the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling the following June, it might be easy to assume that it’s now all smooth sailing for LGBT families in Florida. However, that isn’t always the case, especially if there are children involved. If you are a gay or lesbian couple who has minor children, there may still be potential pitfalls, which is why it is still very wise to consult an experienced Fort Lauderdale family law attorney about your situation.

Last year, a gay couple lost their case seeking to have both of them recognized as their children’s fathers. They had added two children to their family through the use of an egg donor and a surrogate mother in Canada, and their high court told them that only the children’s biological father could be recognized as a legal parent. The other partner would “have to apply for special permission to become their adoptive father,” according to a report from

That case happened in Italy, not in Florida. However, recent rulings from Florida courts also raise the possibility of problems for gay and lesbian couples with children. Back in 2018, the Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling that, while not involving gay or lesbian parents, could have a profound impact on LGBT families.

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Whether you’re just a fan of the works of William Shakespeare, or are having flashbacks to high school English literature class, you may recall the famed lines,

O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

from the play Romeo and Juliet. The reality is, for many people, there’s a lot in a name, especially a last name. It represents heritage, ethnicity and familial ties, among other important things.

So, what can you do if your child’s other parent wants to change your child’s last name to reflect his last name? Actually, there are many things you can do, because the law in Florida creates some fairly specific hurdles a parent must clear in order for a judge to order a name change. One of the biggest relates to proving certain things related to the welfare of your child. Demonstrating that the other parent didn’t clear these hurdles may entitle you to an order keeping the child’s name unchanged. As always, whether you’re engaged in a name battle or some other legal dispute regarding your child, be sure you’re getting advice and representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

The child of L.H. was at the center of such a name battle. L.H.’s child’s last name on the birth certificate was H., the same as the mother’s. Sometime later, the mother and M.B. appeared in court on a paternity action. Both M.B. and L.H. stipulated that M.B. was the father and that M.B. should be added to the child’s birth certificate to reflect his paternity.

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You may have heard phrases like “due process” or “equal protection” on the news or in a courtroom TV show, but you may not imagine them having a substantial impact on your divorce case. You may assume that your divorce case will involve, primarily, an assessment of the factual evidence each side presents. That is not always true, however. Any family law case, like any other case, can turn on issues of fact or issues of law, including constitutional law. That’s why, no matter how straightforward or basic you may think your family law case is, you should be sure to retain the services of an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

One recent South Florida case is an example of this concept. Zanja and Richard’s case started as a straightforward paternity, timesharing, and child support matter. The court originally scheduled the hearing for one day. As is true in many cases, this pair’s hearing ran long. At the end of the first day of the hearing, the judge scheduled a second day for the continuation of the hearing. At the start of that second day, the court indicated that both sides would have a chance to present their cases-in-chief.

At the end of the second day, the parties still weren’t finished. However, this time, the judge did not allow the hearing to expand to another day. The judge ordered that, due to time limitations, each side would simply wrap up by presenting their closing arguments, and the judge would rule on what had been presented. There was one major problem:  the mother still hadn’t had the opportunity to present her case-in-chief yet.

Pursuing a family law case can be expensive. Attorneys’ fees and costs can be very costly. Sometimes, the fear of the cost of pursuing your legal claims may work as a barrier to filing. Concern about costs should not make you surrender your legal rights. In certain cases, the law may allow you to obtain a court order that requires your opponent to pay your attorneys’ fees and costs. Having representation from an experienced Florida family law attorney can help you ensure that you are protecting your rights and availing yourself of all possible options.

On the issue of attorneys’ fees, the Fifth District Court of Appeal, whose decisions affect cases originating in Orange County (Orlando), Marion County (Ocala), and Volusia County (Daytona Beach), among others, made an important ruling with regard to attorneys’ fees earlier this month. The case that triggered the ruling was a paternity action filed in Brevard County. Eventually, that case went before the Fifth DCA.

The mother, as part of her appeals case, asked the court to grant her an award of her appellate attorneys’ fees under Section 742.045 of the Florida Statutes. The mother acknowledged that a previous Fifth DCA ruling from 1999, Starkey v. Linn, specifically stated that parties can’t recover appellate attorneys’ fees in paternity cases, but she argued that the 1999 case was wrongly decided and that the court should award her fees in spite of that ruling.

In any family law case, it is important to keep your case moving forward. Depending on the details of your case, a failure to take action within a specific period of time can have disastrous consequences. As a respondent, it can result in a default judgment against you in which the other side gets exactly what they want. As a petitioner, it could mean that your case gets dismissed on procedural grounds, regardless of the merit of your claim. However, sometimes, a court may conclude that you’ve not acted within the allotted time when, in fact, you have. What do you do then? It is in these and other times when it pays to have experienced Florida paternity counsel handling your case.

An example of this type of scenario, and a party’s successful handling of this challenge, was a paternity action filed by a man named José. While many people may think of paternity actions as cases brought by mothers seeking court orders declaring certain men to be legal fathers of their children (and, as a result, obligated by law to provide support for those children), there are actually several reasons why a man might choose to file a paternity case. For example, a man may know or believe that he is the biological father of a child whose mother is not his wife. In a case in which the mother and father aren’t married, the father may file a paternity case to obtain a court order that declares him the legal father, which triggers all of the parental rights established under Florida law.

Apparently, a period of inactivity occurred in José’s case because, on Jan. 25, 2017, the trial court or court clerk dismissed José’s lawsuit “for lack of prosecution.” The term “lack of prosecution,” in a civil lawsuit, means that the plaintiff took no action for a certain prolonged period, and, because of that inactivity, the court was entitled to throw out the case. Florida’s family law procedural rules state that, if a plaintiff in a family law case does nothing for 10 months, the court can serve notice that the case is at risk of dismissal. If another 60 days goes by after the notice with still no activity in the case, the case can be dismissed.

Not everyone’s family is destined to look like a “traditional family” from a 1950s “sit-com.” Some fathers will find themselves in the position of having children with women who are not their wives. These fathers may, like any other fathers, still desire a close relationship with their children. The level of complexity of Florida paternity cases may vary, depending on the circumstances, but all can benefit from the input of knowledgeable Florida family law counsel. One situation that can add extra layers of complexity occurs when the mother of your child is still married to someone else at the time of your child’s birth. A recent case from Broward County outlines some of the legal rights alleged fathers have in these situations.

In the case, a woman (“T.S.”) gave birth to a child in February 2013. The mother did not provide paternal information in the child’s birth certificate but did give the child a last name that did not match hers or her husband’s. Eventually, DNA tests showed that “C.P.,” the man whose last name matched the child’s, was the child’s father.

Two years later, the biological father filed a court action seeking a determination of paternity and child support, among other things. The mother argued that the trial court should throw the case out. Her argument stated that, when she gave birth to the child, she was married to another man (“S.F.”). This meant that the child was the product of an intact marriage and was presumed to be the legal child of S.F., and C.P. had no legal right to bring a court action for paternity.

One of the more “buzzworthy” and headline-grabbing family law cases of recent days came from Texas, where a court in that state recently ordered a man to pay $65,000 in child support for a 16-year-old girl despite unrefuted scientific proof (in the form of DNA testing) that the girl was not the man’s biological daughter. The case touches upon many issues related to the methods for establishing legal paternity and the role DNA testing should play in that process. A South Florida case from last year touched upon many of those same issues. That case, involving two men, a mother, and her young daughter, shed some light on Florida paternity procedures.

The Palm Beach County mother, A.D.A., was involved romantically with a man, M.J.L., until late 2009. When those two broke up, A.D.A. was “in trouble with the law” and also was in the late stages of a pregnancy. Shortly before Christmas, A.D.A. had a baby daughter. Also present at the hospital was M.J.L. and a new man in the mother’s life, D.M.F.

The daughter’s birth certificate listed no father. M.J.L. filed a paternity action early in 2010 but voluntarily dismissed his case in the following summer. Shortly after that dismissal, in late July 2010, A.D.A. and D.M.F. filed an Acknowledgement of Paternity, stating that D.M.F. was the natural father. In reality, D.M.F. couldn’t have been the biological father, since he did not enter the mother’s life until well after the March 2009 date when she conceived the child.

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If you are familiar with daytime talk TV shows, or maybe just pop culture in general, perhaps you’ve witnessed the scene. The baritone-voiced talk show host, with all the appropriate dramatic pauses, tells the man sitting on stage the results of a DNA paternity test. “You are… not the father,” the host exclaims. The man dances. The woman cries. YouTube users compile the scenarios for “Best of” and “Top 5” videos. These issues also occur outside daytime TV, and they are very serious matters. Many real lives may be dramatically altered by the outcomes of these procedures. So, what happens if you think you may need to disestablish legal paternity of a child in Florida? A recent case decided by the First District Court of Appeal, in resolving the case of one man, highlights some options available under this state’s law.

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