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Ways to establish paternity in Florida

When a couple is married to one another when their child is born, there is an assumption that the husband is the father of the newborn. There is no need to take any action to establish paternity in such cases. Establishing paternity at the hospital when the child is born, is the easiest way to do so in Florida. Even if the parents are unmarried, they can fill out the Paternity Acknowledgement form in the hospital and sign it in the presence of the notary public provided by the hospital. The form will be forwarded by the hospital to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics for the recording of the child's birth and the father's name will be on the birth certificate.

However, family structures have changed across the country, and couples no longer always wait to get married before having children. If the couple has not established paternity in the method outlined above, and instead wishes to do it another way, there are still some options available.

If the couple was unmarried at the time of the child's birth, but gets married at a later time, before the child turns 18 years of age, the husband becomes the child's legal father. This does not mean the father's name will be added to the birth certificate though. To do that, the Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida must be completed, or a written statement must be given to the Clerk of Court under oath, at the time the couple applies for a marriage license. Where the couple remains unmarried, they can fill out the Acknowledgment of Paternity form in front of witnesses or the notary public and mail the form to the relevant department to add the father's name to the birth certificate.

If paternity is not established any other way, it may be possible to establish it by filing a civil action in court. The court will establish paternity through a court order; the court hears the case and determines if the putative father is, indeed, the child's father.

All children deserve to have a legal father. Not only does it give the child the security of knowing who the father is, it has practical benefits as well, including health insurance, possible governmental benefits, inheritance rights, and child support in case of a divorce. It also allows the father to establish parental rights over their children.

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Joseph J. Porzenski
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