Paternity proceedings typically occur when someone conceives a child outside of wedlock. The person who believes he is the father will have to either work with the mother to submit paperwork to the state or ask the courts to order genetic testing.
However, paternity proceedings have become increasingly common in divorces as well. If you think you may soon file a divorce and you have children with your spouse, learning about the role of paternity in your divorce might affect the way you strategize.
Florida typically presumes a husband is the father
In Florida, you can legally be the father of a child without biologically being the father. Under Florida law, marriage results in presumptive paternity when a woman has a child. The husband will be on the birth certificate for a child born to his wife or born to a spouse he has since left but was married to at the time of conception.
During a divorce, the Florida family courts will continue to assume that the husband is the legal father of the child, with all the responsibilities that go along with that role.
Sometimes, when there has already been an issue with infidelity, a husband can take immediate steps to contest the paternity at the time of birth. Other times, the issue of paternity only comes up when the couple divorces.
Paternity testing could alter your family dynamics
There are multiple scenarios in which someone might question paternity as part of a divorce. A woman who intends to divorce her spouse and marry the biological father of the child may want to legally establish that he is not the father. A man listed as the father who now has questions about whether or not he is the biological dad may also want to determine whether or not he is the biological father.
Those parties hoping to change or de-establish paternity will often need to perform their own genetic testing and include the results in their filing with the courts. The outcome of those tests and any hearings that follow could also have implications on custody rights and support. The courts may change legal paternity for the child, or they might acknowledge the biological parent while leaving legal parentage the same because their decisions should focus on the best interests of the child.
Paternity issues can complicate your divorce and custody issues, so you will need to look carefully at your legal and family situation before taking action.