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​Paternity can be established several ways.  How paternity is determined in a particular situation will usually depend upon whether the parents are married.  If the parents are not married, whether the parents are in agreement about paternity is the issue.

The most basic way paternity is determined is when a couple has a child, they are listed as the parents on the child's birth certificate (more on this later on).  If a couple is married and the wife gives birth, the law presumes that the husband is the father.  No legal document or court proceeding is required to declare the husband to be the father.  On the other hand, if the couple is not married, both must sign a form indicating their consent to have the father listed on the initial birth certificate.  

You may have a situation where a child is born out of wedlock and the father is not listed on the initial birth certificate.  In this instance, there are two ways to establish who the father is and have him listed on an amended birth certificate.  The first way is by both parents signing a legal document, called an Acknowledgment of Paternity.  This document allows an amended birth certificate to be issued listing the father's name.  The second way is for either the mother or the father to file a lawsuit to have a court determine paternity.  This is the option most parties pursue when trying to determine paternity.  

If a father of a child born out of wedlock wants to legally establish himself as the father, he can acknowledge his paternity by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity.  This document is sent to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics, which will then issue a revised birth certificate listing him as the father.  

Paternity lawsuits usually revolve around the following two issues: Child Support & Custody/Visitation (now known as "Time-Sharing").  This usually occurs when either parent refuses to sign the necessary document(s) to establish paternity, which leads to the other parent filing a lawsuit seeking to have paternity legally determined.  

The issue of child custody "time-sharing" most often arises in divorce cases, however, custody can also become an issue if married parents separate from each other, or in connection with a lawsuit to determine paternity.  In "time-sharing" cases, parental responsibility will also be allocated to either parent depending on the circumstances surrounding the case.  Shared parental responsibility is most often recommended by judges, unless it is not in the Child or Children's Best Interest.  If the child's parents are not married to each other, one of them will usually need to file a lawsuit for paternity in order to seek an order establishing time-sharing with their child(ren).  Florida law does provide and state that a child's parents have equal rights to custody, however a man who has not legally established as a parent does not have any such rights.  Even if paternity has been legally established, only a court can resolve any issues or disputes about time-sharing.  A paternity case can be brought to determine time-sharing issues, regardless of whether paternity has been established by some other means.  If both parents are married however, it's a different situation. This will be elaborated on in the Frequently asked questions page.   

​As a general rule, both parents of a child have an obligation to contribute toward the support of their child.  For the typical couple who are married and living together as a family unit, the support of their children is worked out between them, with no intervention of a court.  This is often also the case when unmarried parents live together as a family unit.  It's when the parents are living apart and have a disagreement about how much each should be contributing that they typically turn to the court.  If married parents file for dissolution of marriage, either parent can ask the court to order the other to pay child support.  Either party may also file a motion to seek temporary child support while the dissolution of marriage case is pending.  

St. Petersburg, FL Paternity Attorney

Acknowledging Paternity

Paternity Lawsuits

Child Custody (now known as) "Time-Sharing"

Child Support

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