Florida Courts Discusses Bases for Establishing Paternity

People who have children in non-marital relationships often believe they have the right to parent their children without court intervention. If the relationship falls apart, though, the father’s rights may be in jeopardy. If a man has acted as a child’s parent, however, the courts may legally deem him a child’s father, as illustrated in a recent Florida paternity ruling. If you want to take action to establish or protect your parental rights, it is advisable to contact a Miami paternity attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case and Procedural History

It is alleged that the father and the mother were in a relationship, and the father was named as the father on the child’s birth certificate. Despite the relationship ending, the father remained involved in the child’s life until the mother ceased visitation in 2020. Subsequently, the father filed a petition to establish paternity, a parenting plan, and a timesharing schedule. The mother requested DNA testing, which ultimately showed that the father was not the biological father.

Reportedly, citing section 742.12(4), which states that in a proceeding to establish paternity, if the test results show that the alleged father cannot be the biological father, the case shall be dismissed with prejudice, the mother moved to dismiss the father’s paternity action, leading the trial court to dismiss the petition. The father appealed the dismissal of his petition to establish paternity, arguing the trial court’s application of section 742.12(4) of the Florida Statutes was improper.

Establishing Paternity Via DNA Tests

On appeal, the court found that the trial court erred in dismissing the father’s petition solely based on the DNA test results. It emphasized the legal distinction between biological and legal paternity, highlighting that the father’s paternity was established by operation of law through the birth certificate acknowledgment.

Pursuant to Florida law, the father’s voluntary acknowledgment of paternity created a rebuttable presumption of paternity, which could only be challenged on specific grounds such as fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. Since the acknowledgment was not rescinded within the prescribed timeframe, the father’s legal paternity was firmly established, and he was not required to further establish paternity through Chapter 742 proceedings. Therefore, the trial court erred in disregarding the father’s legal status as the child’s father and dismissing his petition.

Further, the court deemed the mother’s argument that the father failed to establish a presumption of paternity due to the absence of specific documentation to be without merit. In doing so, it explained that the presence of the father’s name on the birth certificate was sufficient evidence of compliance with statutory requirements. Moreover, the court clarified that the statute did not mandate the biological relationship between the named father and the child on the birth certificate. As the challenger, the burden was on the mother to rebut the presumption of paternity, which she failed to do based on the grounds asserted.

Consequently, the court reversed the trial court’s dismissal and remanded the case. It directed the trial court to consider the father’s petition as one to determine timesharing, assessing whether timesharing with the father was in the best interest of the child, in accordance with Florida law.

Consult an Experienced Miami Attorney

People who have children outside of marriage may agree to certain terms with regard to custody or visitation, but even if they have an amicable relationship, it is usually in their best interest to legally establish paternity to protect their rights. If you want to learn more about how you can safeguard your parental rights, it is smart to speak to an attorney. The experienced Miami paternity lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. regularly help people fight to protect their interests in family law matters, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach us at 800-596-0579 or use the form online to set up a consultation.

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