Beyond DNA Tests: Establishing Paternity in Florida
Paternity Establishment For Unmarried Parents
You might imagine that the stories Florida family lawyers hear about paternity cases resemble those paternity test-themed episodes that were so popular on daytime television talk shows in the 90s when DNA paternity testing first became widespread. However, there is much more to paternity law than what you see on TV. The stereotype about paternity cases is that a single mother falls on hard times financially and tries to prove that her ex-boyfriend is the biological father of her child so that he will be legally obligated to pay child support for the child. Meanwhile, the ex-boyfriend denies that he is the father; he attempts to cast doubt on the mother’s credibility, trying to cast her as greedy, financially irresponsible, dishonest, and sexually promiscuous. Here are some frequently asked questions about paternity laws in Florida. You can find out more by talking to an Orlando paternity lawyer.
Q: How Accurate Are DNA Paternity Tests?
A: They are more than 99 percent accurate. If you are not the child’s father, a DNA test can confirm this with close to 100 percent certainty. You may have heard otherwise, but DNA paternity tests were highly accurate when they first became available, and they are even more accurate now. When Steve Jobs told Time magazine in 1982 that the results of the DNA test he had taken showed that 28 percent of the men in the United States could be the father of his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs, this only indicated that Steve Jobs was better at designing computers than he was at evaluating the accuracy of DNA tests.
Q: How Do DNA Tests Work?
A: A DNA sample, usually in the form of skin cells obtained by wiping the inner cheek with a cotton swab, is taken from the child and the alleged father. The DNA samples are analyzed to see how much DNA they have in common. If the result is positive, then approximately half of the child’s DNA will match the father’s. If it is negative, then the child’s DNA and the man’s DNA will have little in common. The method of DNA analysis is similar to that used by genealogy services and in crime labs.
Q: Is It Possible to Establish Paternity Without a DNA Test?
A: Yes. In fact, the court only requires a DNA test if you are trying to deny paternity. Most of the time, the deciding factor that makes you a father is not your genetic relationship to the child, but rather your wish to claim the child as your son or daughter. If you are married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth, Florida law automatically recognizes you as the father. You simply list yourself as the father on the child’s birth certificate, and no one will ever question your legal paternity. If the mother is not married at the time of the child’s birth, it is still possible to establish paternity without taking a DNA test.
Q: How Do You Establish Paternity If You and the Child’s Mother Are Not Married?
A: Both parents of the child sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form and file it with the court. 60 days after the form is submitted, it becomes permanent. The only way to revoke a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form if more than 60 days have passed since you signed it is to persuade the court that you signed the form under duress.
Q: What Can You Do If the Mother Refuses to Sign the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form?
A: If the mother refuses to sign the form acknowledging that you are the father of her child, you can still petition the court to acknowledge your paternity and to grant you visitation rights or shared custody. Likewise, if the alleged father refuses to acknowledge paternity, the mother can have recourse to the same legal process. Whether you are the one trying to establish paternity, or whether the child’s mother wants to name you as the father, you should hire a lawyer who deals with family law cases. The process may or may not involve a DNA test.
Q: If the Court Declares You as the Father, Are You Automatically Entitled to Shared Custody?
A: No. You can request shared custody, which involves spending time with the child and having a say in decisions related to the child’s upbringing, but the court will not automatically grant it to you, especially if the mother was the one who initiated the paternity case.
Contact Sean Smallwood, P.A. About Paternity Cases