Written By: Lenorae Atter, Attorney
Establishing paternity in Florida can and normally does require that both parties participate in DNA testing of the child and presumed father. The reason for DNA testing is to know with certainty that the father is actually the biological father of the child at issue. Not having the DNA test can lead to additional court action down the line if biological findings later show that that the individual that was ordered to pay child support and established a relationship with the child is actually not the father. Therefore, when an action to establish paternity is brought by either the potential father, the mother or the Department of Revenue on behalf of the mother, then the court will most likely order DNA testing.
The Department of Revenue may bring an action to establish paternity and child support and they normally do so if either the mother asks for such assistance, or if the mother applies for government assistance for the child’s benefit. Before the State will allow for a child to get on government assistance the State may require that paternity be established so that the biological father of the child can actually assist the child instead of the state. The Florida Department of Revenue may ask the mother to fill out forms to show who the potential father or fathers may be and the State may then take action in filing a petition to establish paternity against those listed.
In Florida, for a man to preserve and/or establish his parental rights of a child he must do the following:
1. File with the putative father registry in the State. This allows for the State to be on notice that there may be a child that is biologically connected to that individual and if anyone ever tries to terminate the parental rights of the child, then the registry is checked for a potential father of the child.
2. The potential father must file a petition to establish his parental rights with the court. Regardless of who is listed as the father on the birth certificate, rights are not established for the father until the court establishes them.
Once an action has been filed by the mother, Department of Revenue and/or the father, then DNA testing may be ordered by the court. Each party is typically responsible for the fee associated with the testing so the burden of cost does not fall on just one party. If either party does not comply with the court order to have the DNA testing completed, then the judge can enter an order against the offending party. What this means, is that if the mother/guardian does not take the child for DNA testing, then the court may find that the presumed father is not the child’s father and is not obligate to pay child support. Department of Revenue o/b/o M.J.W. v. G.A.T.,Jr., 37 FLW D28 (Fla. 2nd DCA December 28, 2011). The impact of noncompliance would basically, according to the court, meet the standards established under Florida Statute 742.18(7)(b), which determines the disestablishment of paternity for noncompliance with DNA testing.
If you have a paternity case, then you should contact an experienced family law attorney regarding your case.