Paternity has personal, financial and legal implications for parents and children. Identifying the father not only gives the child the opportunity to experience a paternal relationship, but it also gives the child access to crucial resources, such as child support, inheritance, insurance benefits and family medical history.
In Florida, if the mother is married when the child is born, then the mother’s husband is the child’s legal father. However, nearly half of the children born in Florida in 2020 were born to unmarried mothers. In these cases, parents can establish paternity in a variety of ways, depending on the circumstances.
1. Establishing paternity at birth
An unmarried couple can establish paternity at birth by filling out a paternity acknowledgment form in the hospital. This establishes legal paternity and allows the father’s name to appear on the birth certificate.
2. Establishing paternity voluntarily for an older child
If the parents marry after the child is born, the husband becomes the child’s legal father. When applying for a marriage license, the parents can submit a form or statement to verify paternity with the court. The Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics can then issue an updated birth certificate that includes the father’s name.
It is also possible to establish paternity without marriage by submitting a form to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, provided the mother was not married to someone else when the child was born.
3. Establishing paternity through the court
If the child’s father refuses to acknowledge paternity, it may be necessary to obtain a legal order to establish paternity. The judge may order genetic testing to determine paternity.
Whether or not the father is active in a child’s life, establishing legal paternity helps ensure that the child receives the support and resources he or she needs and deserves.