How to Establish Paternity in Florida

Every child deserves to have a legal dad, and fathers have rights to be a legal parent to their children. Paternity is the legal establishment of the identity of a child’s father. Contrary to common belief, when a man’s name is on a child’s birth certificate as the father, this doesn’t establish paternity. In fact, a mother may list anyone whom she believes is, or wants to be, the father. Also contrary to popular belief, a DNA test is not the only way paternity can be established. Paternity can be established through several means. Paternity gives rights and benefits to the mother, the father and the child. The Florida Department of Revenue provides the following information when establishing paternity.

Some of the rights and benefits for the child are:

  • Information on family medical history
  • The child will know the identity of his or her father
  • The father’s name is on the birth certificate
  • Health or life insurance from either parent, if available
  • Support from both parents, like child support and medical support
  • Get Social Security or veteran’s benefits, military allowances and inheritances

Paternity gives both parents the legal right to:

  • Get a child support order
  • Get a court order for shared time with the child
  • Have a say in decisions about the child

Does Your Child Have a Legal Father?

  • A child born to parents that are married to each other has a legal father. Married parents and their child get all the rights and benefits listed above.
  • A child does not have a legal father if the mother is not married when the child is born. Paternity has to be established for the child.

How Do I Establish Paternity for My Child?

At birth in the hospital:

If the mother is married, the mother’s husband at birth is the legal father of the child. Neither parent needs to do anything to establish paternity. This paperwork is completed by the hospital. If the mother is married but does not list her husband’s name on the child’s birth certificate, paternity must be addressed in court.

If the mother and father are not married when the child is born, the child’s father can fill out and sign the Paternity Acknowledgment form (also called the DH-511) in the hospital. Both parents must fill out and sign the form in the presence of a notary public provided by the hospital. This is the quickest and easiest way to establish paternity when the mother and father are not married.

The man that signs the DH-511 form is the legal father as soon as the form is complete. The hospital will send the form to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics so they can record the birth. The legal father’s name will also be on the birth certificate when it is recorded. Note: This option cannot be used if the mother is married when the child is born.

Age 0-18 years by legitimation or acknowledgement:

If the mother is unmarried when the child is born, but later marries the child’s father, the husband becomes the legal father. When this happens, the father’s name is not automatically added to the child’s birth certificate.

To add the father’s name to the birth certificate, the parents can complete The Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida  form (DH-743A) or provide a written statement under oath to the Clerk of Court when they apply for their marriage license. The DH-743A form will be provided to the parents by the Clerk of Court when the parents return the completed marriage license. The Clerk of Court will send the completed form or written statement to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics so the father’s name can be added to the birth certificate.

After the child’s birth and any time until the child reaches age 18, the mother and child’s father can establish paternity if they fill out and sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity form (Form DH-432) *. Both parents must fill out and sign this form in the presence of two witnesses or a notary public. This form is also available by visiting your local Florida Health Department, the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics in Jacksonville, or one of the Florida Department of Children and Families offices. Mail the completed form to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics and they will change the birth certificate to add the legal father’s name. Note: This option cannot be used if the mother was married when the child was born.

Age 0-18 years by order:

Paternity is determined by a judge in court

Paternity can be established by filing a civil action in circuit court. A judge can establish paternity by court order. We will ask the court to hear the case and then a judge decides whether or not paternity is established. Until paternity is legally established the man is referred to as the “alleged father.” Based on the evidence, the judge may issue an order that says the man is the child’s father. A judge can also establish paternity in other kinds of court actions, such as divorce or dependency.

In court cases:

  • The party who files the action must be served.
  • If both parents agree to legal paternity before the actual day of the court hearing they can sign a consent order that is adopted by the court as the final order.
  • Both parents must appear for the court hearing as scheduled.
  • If the alleged father was served, but does not show up for court, the judge may choose to “default” the alleged father and make him the legal father without him being there.
  • The court may order a genetic test.
  • One or both parents may be ordered to pay for the genetic test and any other court costs.

Paternity is determined by the Child Support Program in a Final Order

The Florida Department of Revenue can help parents determine paternity without going to court. To do this:

  • the mother,
  • the man believed to be the father, and
  • the child(ren)

must provide genetic samples that are tested. If the test results prove that the man believed to be the father is the biological father, the Department will issue an Administrative Order of Paternity and tell the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics to add the father’s name to the child’s birth certificate.

Please note: The Florida Department of Revenue will review cases to see which order method listed above is the best option for each individual case.

If you are a father being denied paternity or time with your children, please contact the Men’s Divorce Law Firm in Orlando, Florida for informative counsel and representation in paternity matters. Our caring legal team is ready to help you.