Becoming a parent is no small event, and while most couples happily welcome a new child, the same amount of joy may be lacking for men unsure of the child’s paternity. Paternity, from a legal standpoint, typically refers to establishing a legal father for children born out of wedlock. Children born to married couples are automatically assumed to be fathered by the husband, so paternity is not normally questioned. Further, men in good relationships, both married and unmarried, rarely question the paternity of the child. A declaration of paternity brings with it two consequences: it creates an ongoing obligation to financially support the child, and grants the man the right to visitation. This designation can become problematic if the relationship later ends and the purported father learns the child is not really his. This knowledge does not automatically end the man’s legal rights and obligations towards the child. Rather, to be relieved of this status, the man must file a petition in court to disestablish paternity so he is no longer considered to be the legal father. Because courts are primarily concerned with maintaining the well being of a child, disestablishing paternity is not particularly easy, but it will be done if certain conditions are met. An overview of what a man must prove before a court will consider severing paternity of a child, and common factors that derail petitions for disestablishing paternity, will follow below.
Conditions to Disestablish Paternity
The mother and child have an important interest in keeping the purported father in their lives – the mother likely needs the financial support, and the child benefits from having two parents. As a result, a man must initiate a petition to disestablish paternity within two years of the child’s birth or of learning the child may not be his. Additional requirements include:
- the father must submit an affidavit stating that he discovered evidence that put paternity into question after it was established;
- genetic testing must be performed, either voluntarily or by court order, to determine if the man is biologically related to the child;
- the man must be current on child support, if he is obligated to pay;
- the man did not adopt the child; and
- the child was not conceived by artificial insemination while the man and the mother were married. In this instance, the law says the man becomes the legal father at the time of conception, instead of when the child is born, the point used to determine paternity in natural pregnancies.
Issues Prompting Denial
However, a father can meet all of the requirements listed above and still have his petition to disestablish paternity denied. A court may reject a petition if any of the following are proven to be true:
- the legal father blocked the biological father from asserting his parental rights;
- the man married the mother, if unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, and held himself out as the child’s father;
- the man permitted his name to be listed as the father on child’s birth certificate;
- the man acknowledged paternity in a sworn statement;
- the man signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity; or
- the man ignored a notice from a court or State agency that asked him to submit to genetic testing.
Get Legal Advice
Being a child’s parent is a big responsibility, and if you have questions about the paternity of your child, talking to a family law attorney is the most direct route to getting the information you need. Courts take paternity very seriously because of what is at stake – the child’s well being, and will highly scrutinize requests to take that stability away. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. has experience in paternity matters, and will diligently work to achieve the best possible result. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+