Tampa and Sarasota Paternity Lawyers Assists Mothers, Fathers and Children
Dedicated firm handles legal issues related to fatherhood
Paternity, the legal term for fatherhood, comes with rights and responsibilities. Unfortunately, if paternity is in doubt, so are those rights and responsibilities. As a result, fathers have no right to see their children, mothers have no right to receive child support, and children have no right to inherit. If an unsettled question of paternity is causing you hardship, Sessums Law Group, P.A. is prepared to help. We can guide you through the process of establishing paternity with reliable advice and strong advocacy.
What are the benefits of establishing paternity?
In any paternity action, there are three interested parties, each with something to gain from establishing paternity:
- Father — If a man is proven to be the biological father of a child, he is entitled to request custody or visitation from the court. Of course, after a paternity determination, the father has the duty to pay child support.
- Mother — The mother can ask the court for a child support order.
- Child — Child support is technically the right of the child, so the child benefits when the mother gets a support order. The child can also be secure in the knowledge of the father’s identity and has an opportunity to know the father. The child can access family history, including medically necessary information, and have the father’s name placed on the birth certificate. The child also receives additional practical benefits, such as health insurance, the right to inherit from the father, and Social Security and VA benefits, if applicable.
A negative determination of paternity can also be helpful, as it frees a man from any obligation to support a child who is not his.
What is the process for establishing paternity in Florida?
When a couple is married, the husband is the legal father of all children born during the course of the marriage. A paternity determination is unnecessary. When parents are not married, there are several options for establishing paternity:
- Voluntarily at the hospital — When the child is born, the father can fill out and sign the Paternity Acknowledgment form (DH-511). This option is only available if the mother is unmarried at the time.
- Voluntarily when applying for a marriage license — When the parents marry after the child’s birth, the man automatically becomes the child’s father. However, his name does not go on the child’s birth certificate unless the parents complete and file an Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida form (DH-743A) or submit an affidavit to the Clerk of Court when applying for their marriage license.
- Voluntarily with an Acknowledgment of Paternity form (DH-432) — Both parents must sign the form in the presence of two witnesses, have the form notarized and mail it to the State Office of Vital Statistics, Paternity Unit.
Of course, a man must be absolutely certain before voluntarily assuming parenthood. In many cases, it is prudent to perform genetic testing before filling out any of the paternity forms.
When couples do not agree to resolve paternity voluntarily, either the father or the mother can petition the court to establish paternity. In most cases, the court orders a genetic test to decide the issue.
Attorneys handle cases where fatherhood is disputed
Our Florida family law attorneys advise clients on voluntary acknowledgments, but we also represent clients in cases where paternity is disputed, such as:
- Mothers seeking establishment of paternity — Regardless of the state a relationship is in or whether one existed at all, fathers are legally bound to provide financial support for their sons and daughters. If you’re a mother looking to establish who the father of your child is, we’ll assert your rights and pursue an order confirming legal paternity. This process usually requires genetic testing.
- Fathers petitioning for parental rights — When you’re being excluded from your child’s life, it can cause irreparable harm to both of you. Our firm has the knowledge and experience to help fathers secure custody and visitation rights.
- Disestablishment of paternity — If a man is not the biological father of a child and seeks to terminate his parental rights and obligations, we can advise on the disestablishment of paternity process.
With each day that passes before legal paternity is set, damage occurs that can’t be undone. Our firm delivers effective counsel to reach a proper resolution.
Contact our Tampa family law attorneys for guidance on paternity issues
Our family lawyers at Sessums Law Group, P.A. represent men, mothers and children in paternity cases in the Tampa Bay area. Please call 813-435-5058 or contact us online to schedule an appointment. We have locations in Tampa, Lakeland, Sebring and Sarasota.