This is far from an unusual situation. You may or may not be the father of the child. However, if the mother put your name on the child’s birth certificate and receives any governmental assistance for the child, the Florida Department of Revenue (“FDOR”) will sue you on behalf of the mother to establish your child support obligation for the child. In Florida, it is not only public policy, but state law that both parents owe a duty to support their children. Before you become obligated to pay child support to your former girlfriend, your paternity of the child must be established first.
There are two ways that your paternity and child support obligation may be determined. The first and most common method is that the FDOR will institute a paternity suit against you and demand certain financial information from you, which will be used to establish the amount of monthly child support you will have to pay. Most men do not seek legal assistance at this stage, which is a mistake. The sole purpose if this action is to legally establish you as the child’s father and the amount of monthly child support you will have to pay to the mother. The court, in a FDOR action will not determine any amount of timesharing, parental responsibility, or the right to access any of the child’s medical or school records. The bottom line is that the Court will only establish that you are the child’s legal father and your financial support obligation to be paid to the mother every month until the child turns 18 years of age. You do have rights and do not have to allow the FDOR to put you in this position.
The first thing you should do when you find out about the child’s existence through the mother or the FDOR, is contact an experienced family law attorney, such as Daniel M. Copeland. The course of action that we will recommend is that you get out in front of the matter and file a Petition to Determine Paternity, Parenting Plan/Time-Sharing Schedule, Child Support and Other Related Relief (the “Petition”). We will also file a Motion for Scientific Testing. This motion will require the mother to make the child available to provide DNA samples for paternity testing. The costs of the DNA testing will have to be paid by you and run in the $200 to $500 range depending on the lab chosen.
The test results are typically received within two weeks. If the test results find that you are not the biological father of the child, we will immediately file a Motion to Disestablish Paternity. In this situation, we have to move quickly as Florida law allows a very short period of time to file such a motion after the father has received actual knowledge that he is not the child’s biological father. The court will enter an order stating that you are not the biological father of the child and that you owe no duty of support for the child or possess any rights to custody or time-sharing of the child.
In the event the DNA test results show that you are the biological father of the child, we will have preserved your right to move forward under the Petition to establish your rights to time-sharing with the child, a parenting plan and parental responsibility. To gain a better understanding as to how your child support obligation will be calculated, refer to the Family Law Overview section of our website and click on the Child Custody and Support tab. When the action is over, you will have a court order that will legally recognize you as the father of the child with all of your rights as the father of the child to fully participate in the parenting and raising of your child established and preserved, with a child support obligation that takes into consideration the number of overnights you have with the child.
If you find out that you may have a child that you were unaware of, call Daniel M. Copeland, Attorney at Law, P.A. to set up a free telephone consultation and start moving forward.