Disestablishing paternity is a lengthy process. Know the steps before you begin.
Unfortunately, some parents are not always upfront or honest with each other about paternity. For example, a mother tells a man that he is the biological father of her child. As a result, the alleged father agrees or is ordered to pay child support. Later, the mother tells the man that he is not actually the biological father. The man is now paying support on a child who is not his own. Can anything be done about this?
Fortunately, Florida statutes do provide a way for someone to challenge a finding of legal paternity. Doing so successfully, though, is difficult, and it is important to know that any prior actions, comments, or conversations the alleged father made about the child can be considered admissions of paternity.
To disestablish paternity in Florida, you must file a Petition to Disestablish Paternity with the court. This petition must strictly comply with Florida Statute 742.18. The legal father must file this document in the appropriate circuit court that has jurisdiction over the case.
As part of the initial filing, the legal father must include several key components.
One such item is an affidavit (sworn statement) explaining that newly discovered evidence regarding paternity has come to his attention since the time that legal paternity was first established. It is important to note that this “evidence” must have been discovered after the finding of legal paternity. It cannot have been known prior.
Another thing to include is the result of a DNA test showing that the legal father is probably not the biological father of the child, or an additional sworn statement stating that he was not able to obtain a DNA sample from the child. The father can also request the court to order the DNA test.
Child support payments must be current, or be “substantially complied” with making child support payments on time. This must also be sworn to by affidavit. If there are past-due payments owed, the affidavit must explain why the payments are past due.
In addition, the court must also find that the legal father has not adopted the child. The child cannot have been conceived by artificial insemination while the legal father and mother were married. The legal father must not have prevented the biological father from asserting his rights. Also, the child must have been under 18 years old when the petition for disestablishment of paternity was filed.
The court may deny the petition, though, even if the legal father properly filed the petition for disestablishment and followed all the necessary steps. This occurs if the court finds that the man married the mother of the child and represented to others that he was the father of the child, made a sworn statement indicating he was the biological father, allowed himself to be named as the biological father on the child’s birth certificate, signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity or ignored or disregarded a notice from the court or a state agency asking him to submit to a genetic test.
As you can see, establishing or disestablishing paternity in Florida can be a time-consuming, confusing, and complicated process. Seeking the assistance of an attorney is recommended if you or someone you know is facing this issue.
Shiobhan Olivero was born and raised in Plant City. Her law office can be reached at (813) 534-0393 or by email at [email protected].