In the practice of family law, there are common questions that are posed to an attorney on a regular basis. One such question applies to birth certificates and the establishment of paternity. In summary, the entry of the father’s name on the birth certificate (by itself) does not establish paternity as a matter of law in the State of Florida.
But I’m on the birth certificate……
As a Florida family law lawyer, I receive many phone calls from fathers who want to spend more time with their children but are not permitted to do so by the mothers. The fathers always ask what rights they have because it seems the mother has all of the rights regarding the children. My standard question to their question is whether the person on the phone has been deemed the father or married to the mother when the child was born. Without fail, the response to my question is “I signed the birth certificate.”
It’s always disconcerting to tell the father that he is not the legal father of the child according to the Florida Statutes and related Florida law. It is a misconception that “fathers” who sign a child’s birth certificate as the father of the child are, in fact, the father of the child under Florida law. In Florida, the only way to be recognized as the father of a child is to have a court determine that a specific person is the father of a child. This can be accomplished through a paternity action.
If mother and father agree to the identity of the father then it’s simple, and a Florida court can recognize the father as the father. The problem arises when the mother denies that the individual alleging to be the father is actually the father of the child. When this happens, it is necessary to ask the court to order the parties to cooperate and have a DNA test done. In order for the DNA results to be admissible at a hearing or trial, it is required that the court order the test and the parties physically go to a DNA testing facility that is experienced with such order from the court. The parties are not permitted to have their DNA tested through an over-the-counter test or through the mail. Once the DNA test results are returned showing a significant probability that the person tested is the father, one of the parties may still deny the identity of the father.
If the father whose DNA was tested still denies being the father, the mother can use the birth certificate to support her position that the alleged father is, indeed, the father of the child. The reverse is true for the father. If the mother denies the person whose DNA was tested as being the child’s father, the father can use the signed birth certificate to support his claim of fatherhood. It is these scenarios that make a birth certificate signed by a specific individual as the father of a child relevant.
Once the court hears all of the arguments of the parties and reviews all of the evidence presented by the parties, the court will make a determination as to whether a particular individual is the father of a child. If the court finds the person alleged to be the father is the natural father of the child, then the court will memorialize this finding in a court order. At that point, the father can move forward to exercise his rights as the father of the child.
Based in Jackonville, Florida, family law attorneys the law firm of Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. have that experience and strive to protect and enforce the legal rights of each family law client. If you need legal advice and representation regarding a Florida family law matter, contact Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. by phone at (904) 355-8888 or online at www.woodatter.com for a consultation. At Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A., the attorneys are On Your Side – At Your Side.