Establishing paternity is the legal process of identifying the biological father of a child, usually for purposes of child support, custody, and visitation. It may be necessary to determine a child’s eligibility for public or private benefits such as health and life insurance, social security, veteran’s benefits, family’s medical history, and inheritance issues. But what happens when a father discovers that he is not the biological parent, perhaps after having paid child support or been actively involved in the life of a child? What if the biological father comes forward and wishes to establish a relationship with their child? The legal recourse to remedy this unfortunate occurrence is the disestablishment of paternity, for the purpose of ceasing child support payments and severing parenting responsibilities.
Assuming the role of a legal father to a child is not always the same as being the biological father of a child. The legal father of a child is presumed if he and the mother of the child were married at the time of birth or if he signed the birth certificate at the time of birth, or through a court order when both parents acknowledge paternity. Disestablishment of paternity is a complex legal matter and the services of an experienced Family Law Attorney is essential to navigate the court system and advocate for your rights. The Remsen Family Law Firm is dedicated to quality and compassionate representation for divorce and family law matters. If you wish to challenge paternity, the process begins when the legal father files a Petition to Disestablish Paternity.
In a court of law, disestablishment of paternity may be granted under these circumstances:
- If the child’s mother, biological father and legal father voluntarily consent to change the status.
- The legal father is challenging paternity based on newly discovered evidence that he is not the biological father, usually through DNA testing. If the mother refuses to allow genetic testing of the child, the legal father can request a court order for DNA testing.
- When the mother and legal father are not together, child support payments must be current, unless there is a legitimate reason for arrears.
- The child is under the age of 18.
- The child has not been adopted by the legal father.
- The child was not conceived by artificial insemination while the legal father and mother were married.
- The legal father allows the biological father to exercise his paternal rights, such as visitation and having a relationship with the child.
Even when all the above requirements are met, a Petition to Disestablish Paternity may be denied under certain circumstances. The legal father may have married the mother of the child and reported himself to be biological father or he may have made a sworn statement of that fact. The legal father may have allowed himself to be named on the birth certificate as the biological father or he may have signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. Any of these factors and/or a refusal to participate in a DNA test may be cause for a court denial of the petition. There are situations where the legal father has clear and convincing evidence that he was given false information about being the biological father. In these cases, the Petition to Disestablish Paternity may still be granted, and future child support payments may be discontinued.
Contact a Family Attorney for More information on Paternity Rights
Questions of paternity are inevitably emotional issues. It is hurtful for a child or a parent to learn that they are not biologically related, and this can have a significant impact on their futures. If you have serious doubts about the paternity of a child, the Remsen Family Law Firm can discuss your options with you and help you to resolve your issues. We have offices in Tavares, Clermont, and Lake Mary, Florida. Contact us at 352-243-1247 or 407-898-8822.