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How to establish paternity in Florida

Establishing paternity involves legally identifying yourself as the father of a child. Doing so doesn't just benefit the child, but can ensure that each parent is afforded certain rights as well.

A father who claims paternity of his child affords the child an opportunity to learn more about his or her entire family's history of known genetic conditions and other health-related concerns. It allows the child the opportunity to develop a relationship with his or her father.

Establishing paternity also affords the child an option to be placed on either parents' life health insurance policies. It also ensures that the child will benefit from medical support, child support and other help provided by both parents.

As for the rights a father can enjoy by claiming paternity of his child, it allows him to file for custody or visitation of his child. It also makes it possible for mothers to request child support to cover costs associated with raising a child. Also, perhaps most important of all, it allows the father to be able to render decisions in his child's life.

In Florida, you are only considered to be the legal father of your child if you're legally married to the child's other parent at the time of his or her birth. If the child is born out of wedlock, then it's necessary for the father to establish paternity in order to be considered the legal father of the child and thus enjoy all the rights afforded to him.

If you're unmarried at the time of the child's birth, then perhaps the simplest way to establish paternity is when the birth certificate is being prepared at the hospital right after he or she is born.

A couple that is unmarried at the time of the child's birth, yet later marries, can establish the father's paternity of the child when applying for a marriage license. However, if the couple never marries, paternity can also be established voluntarily through a process called acknowledgement or legitimization.

In situations in which a father is either unable or unwilling to voluntarily claim paternity, a judge can be asked to establish it via court order. In either case, a father will be asked to submit to DNA testing to confirm his paternity.

If you're looking to establish paternity of your child, then you may benefit discussing your legal matter with a Sarasota family law attorney.

Source: Florida Department of Revenue, "Paternity," accessed Nov. 15, 2017

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