If you think you are the father of a child, your best course of action is to immediately review the information available online regarding the Putative Father Registry. After reviewing the website, you should make your application. After that, you should contact an attorney and file a petition to determine paternity in the circuit court. This will ensure that you can immediately be established as the legal father of your child and allow you to seek timesharing. In your petition to determine paternity, you will ask for a DNA test to legally prove you are the biological father. If there is any chance that you are not the biological father, you will not want to miss this step. Once you have been adjudicated the legal father of the child, you will have child support responsibilities that you cannot rescind unless you file a disestablishment of paternity and qualify under those rules and statute to disestablish paternity. You will not be able to disestablish paternity if you had the opportunity to administer the DNA test and failed to do so.
If you have been contacted by Department of Revenue to establish paternity, the State of Florida is doing so only to establish child support and you will be adjudicated the father of the child but not be afforded any rights to see the child. If you are contacted by Department of Revenue, you should immediately contact an attorney to help you though the process and file a companion case in the circuit court to establish timesharing rights for yourself. Generally, the Department of Revenue attempts to establish child support if the mother or child starts receiving benefits from the State of Florida. The Department of Revenue can also establish child support if requested by the mother. If you fail to respond and avail yourself of the process, you will be adjudicated the father of a child and child support determined. Do NOT ignore letters from the Department of Revenue. If you suspect or know you are not the father of a child, you must respond and inform the Department of Revenue accordingly and seek a DNA test. You will not be able to establish visitation through the Department of Revenue.
If you have not been established the legal father of your child through the circuit court, you have no rights to visit your child. The State of Florida provides that for any child born out of wedlock, the mother is the sole parent and she alone can make all parenting decisions for the child. This means that she can leave the State of Florida at will and you cannot restrict her movement unless and until you seek to have your rights asserted in circuit court. Further, the mother has the right to establish child support obligations but still is not obligated to give you any visitation if you do not ask for it in the circuit court. If you want to obtain visitation with your child, you need to file your petition to establish paternity and seek the entry of a parenting plan and timesharing schedule. This is the ONLY way you will obtain visitation with your child.
The best way to obtain child support and for the father to pay his share of the child expenses such as uncovered medical and health related expenses and extra-curricular activities is to file a petition to determine paternity in the circuit court. It is tempting to contact Department of Revenue to have child support assessed against the father, but if you and the father of your child or children started Florida Prepaid College funds or paid for private school, the Department of Revenue will not ensure that those items continue to be paid after child support is established.
Paternity matters deal with parental responsibility, timesharing, a parenting plan, child support and child related expenses. If you have a need and the other parent has the ability to pay, you could be awarded or entitled to some or all of your attorney’s fees and costs to be reimbursed to you by the other parent. Paternity does not establish alimony. Alimony is spousal support and is awarded only in a dissolution of marriage proceeding. If you and the other parent never married, then you are not entitled to nor will you have to pay alimony.
It is not uncommon for a man to find out and prove he is not the biological father of a child. If paternity and child support is established by the State of Florida through Department of Revenue or an administrative proceeding, and you later find out you are not the biological father, consult with an attorney to determine if disestablishment of paternity is a remedy available to you. In order to disestablish paternity, you need to be relatively current in your child support obligations, show that you have newly discovered evidence regarding the paternity of the child that you discovered since paternity was established, that you did not have access to the child for purposes of a paternity DNA test, that you did not prevent any other male from establishing paternity, and that you have not subsequently adopted the child or married the mother and assume parental obligations for the child.