In unfortunately too many cases, a child grows up “fatherless” because his or her father fails to assume his parental responsibilities or because the child’s mother does not know who the father is. But what about cases where multiple men have stepped up to claim fatherhood?
This was the issue presented to one Florida appeals court earlier this year when a married woman gave birth to a child conceived as a result of her extramarital affair. Even though everyone involved agreed that the wife’s extramarital partner was the child’s biological father, this ultimately did not matter. In cases where a child is born to a woman who is part of an intact marriage, biological paternity was “legally insignificant” to the determination of legal paternity, according to the 2d District Court of Appeal‘s ruling.
The case involved a married Polk County woman, identified in the court’s opinion only as “J.R.,” who allegedly began an extramarital affair with her business partner in 2005. Some time later, the woman became pregnant with the business partner’s child. She told the partner, but not her husband. The husband raised the child as his own. The mother, however, also allowed the biological father to have frequent visitation.
The mother eventually cut off the biological father’s visitation and, some time later, separated from her husband. The biological father filed a paternity action, and he and the mother worked out a paternity and support agreement, which both of them, along with the mother’s husband, signed. The trial court later threw out that agreement because it created a legal impossibility, dual paternity, since the document granted parental rights and responsibilities to both the husband and the biological father.
The appeals court agreed with that decision. Florida law is very clear, according to the court, that a child’s legal father is “the man to whom the mother was married when the child was born and whose name appears on the birth certificate.” In this case, the mother and her husband were still married when the child was born, and the mother’s husband’s name was the one listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate, not the biological father’s.
The court pointed out that the case involved an unusual twist on the issue of determining legal paternity. Neither the mother’s husband nor the biological father had abandoned the child. Instead, both men were battling in court to remain a part of the child’s life. In the end, though, the state of the law in Florida dictated only one possible result. The mother was married to the husband at the time of the child’s birth, so the child was legally his. Also, since “there is simply no support in Florida law for the proposition that [the child] is entitled to have two legally recognized fathers,” this left the biological father with no legal rights at all.
Paternity cases are extremely important ones, since the outcome determines whether you will have the rights and responsibilities that come with being a part of a child’s life until at least the age of majority. To ensure that you get a fair hearing in your paternity case, talk to the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A.. Our attorneys can help you maintain your legal rights to your children, and only those children who are yours.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Father Denied Paternity Rights in Florida Courts, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 21, 2013
Three Parents? Florida Judge Allows Biological Father on Birth Certificate with Lesbian Parents, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 19, 2013