The importance of establishing paternity

paternity - father and son

Earlier this month R&B singer Chris Brown was reported to have filed a paternity suit to claim legal rights to his daughter Royalty.

The reason, according to media reports, is because he wants to go to court and clear the air once and for all over custody and child support for his one-year-old.

It’s reported that the girl’s mother has demanded that he pay her $15,000 a month: Brown has been paying $2,500 a month, which he believes is more than fair. Once paternity is established, it will be up to a court to decide.

Married or not, establishing paternity is something a father should do ASAP if he wants any rights in the future. It’s also important for a mother, so she can ensure she that receives the financial help she needs to raise the child – regardless of whether the father remains a part of that child’s life.

In Florida, there are five ways to establish paternity:

Marriage: The parents are married to each other when the child is born. If a woman is married when her child is born, her husband is the legal father of the child and they do not need to do anything to establish paternity. Hospital staff will complete the paperwork. This is true even if the mother does not list her husband’s name on the child’s birth certificate.

Acknowledgement of Paternity: The unmarried couple signs a legal document, either in the hospital when the child is born, or later. If done at the hospital, the unmarried mother and the child’s father can fill out and sign the Paternity Acknowledgement form DH-511 in the presence of two witnesses or a notary. If done after the parents leave the hospital, the unwed mother and the child’s father can fill out and sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form DH-432.

It is very important to understand that this is only evidence of paternity but not enough to establish paternity in Florida. A father still must establish paternity by filing a case and getting a Final Order Establishing Paternity.

If the father refuses to voluntarily sign a paternity statement, legal action can be taken to establish paternity in order for a court-ordered child support arrangement to be made. If a man is not sure he is actually the father, he should not sign any document, by signing it he will be held financially responsible for the child. A paternity test can be conducted to determine whether the man is the father of the child.

Administrative Order Based on Genetic Testing: Paternity is ordered if a genetic test proves fatherhood.

Court Order : A judge can establish paternity through a court order and this is the only way the father will have rights to contact and access to his child. The state asks the court to hear the case and then a judge decides if paternity is established or not. Based on the evidence, the judge may issue an order that says the man is the child’s father. A judge can also establish paternity in other kinds of court actions, such as divorce or dependency.

Legitimation: The mother and natural father get married to each other after the child is born and update the birth record through the Florida Office of Vital Statistics.

Establishing paternity rights is about more than just child support. It’s about providing your child with a host of other legal benefits including inheritance, social security and veteran’s benefits, as well as access to a father’s medical records should they be needed in the future. And, it is about insuring the father’s rights as the legal guardian of the child if anything should happen to the mother or the mother is not able to take care of the child. It is very important to speak with a family law attorney about the proper legal process for establishing paternity.

Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.

Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.

If you are interested in a consultation or have questions do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we will get right back to you.

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