Paternity cases are cases to determine the biological father of a minor child, and then determine Child Support, Parental Responsibility, and Time-Sharing. Parental Responsibility and Time-Sharing are the issues that make up "custody" in Florida, and along with Child Support are basically identical in Paternity Cases as in Divorce cases. As I will describe in more detail on this page, there can be some complicated issues in paternity matters and it can help to have a lawyer to assist you. My practice is located in Fort Lauderdale, but I assist clients throughout the tri-county area. If "paternity" is contested, the court will order a dna test
If you are seeking to represent yourself, there are Florida Supreme Court forms for this area of law on the Florida Courts website.
Paternity is an important area of the law, because many parents have children without getting married, and this can be a confusing area of family law sometimes. Until there is a court order establishing paternity and timesharing (custody), a child’s mother is the child’s legal guardian and has rights to timesharing. A police or sheriff's department will usually enforce this and require a child to be returned to his or her mother, under the threat of potential criminal charges. Another important area of the law is the rights of same sex parents, for example when a child has two mothers.
For a child born during a marriage, but where the biological father is not the Husband, there are important steps to take to protect your rights, and it can often be extremely helpful to consult with a Fort Lauderdale family law attorney experienced in paternity law issues.
In addition to this issue, virtually all of the time-sharing and child support issues that can arise in a divorce case, can also come up in paternity cases. The same rules regarding relocation with the child apply once there is a court order or case pending, and for modification of court orders as well.
When Florida’s Child Support Enforcement program is seeking establishment of a child support order, it is possible for there to be a child support order entered without a parenting plan and timesharing schedule, although there are procedures now for entry of a form parenting plan and timesharing order in a Child Support Enforcement administrative procedure, and for addressing timesharing in court when the Department of Revenue pursues a child support order.
One important additional thing to remember in Paternity Cases, especially if your child was born in a State other than Florida and you want to make changes to the child's birth certificate, is to include in the court order instructions regarding changes to the birth certificate, and to be sure to get a "certified copy" of the court order. The rules for amending birth certificates are different in different states, and, depending on the circumstances and when the change is done, often require an amendment to a birth certificate to be provided for in a Court order. As part of completing a name change if all the procedures are followed correctly, the Clerk of Court’s office at the main courthouse in Fort Lauderdale forwards paperwork to the State for name changes.
As with divorce and other family law cases, I believe disputes regarding time-sharing or child support in Paternity matters in almost all cases can best be resolved though Collaborative Family Law or Co-Mediation, rather than adversarial court battles. In virtually all litigated paternity cases, the Judge at some point will order you to attend mediation prior to a trial. The Court is there to resolve disputes, but if possible resolving outside of court definitely, in my opinion, has advantages. Collaborative Law and Co-Mediation are structured processes to help you do that, when it’s not possible in your situation for you to resolve the dispute with the other parent on your own.
Please call me at (954) 636-7498, or use the contact form, and we can discuss your Paternity case.