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How do Florida courts establish paternity in child support cases?

Generally speaking, a child has a legal father if the child's parents are married at the moment it is born. If, however, the parents are not married at the time of birth, the child does not have a legal father, meaning that if the prospective father wishes to exercise his rights he must proactively establish paternity. Establishing paternity is very important if the mother is interested in getting child support from the father of the child.

To establish paternity after a child is born, a prospective father has a few options. One option is to have the unmarried parents of the baby sign a legal document when the baby is born or shortly after indicating that the man is the biological father of the baby.

Alternatively, the natural parents of the child can get married after the child is born and update their child's birth record via the Florida Office of Vital Statistics to establish legal paternity. Paternity can also be established if it is ordered by a judge, and finally, paternity can be established if a DNA test indicates that the child is biologically related to the father.

Currently, the most accurate and virtually error-proof method of establishing paternity is via DNA testing. When a DNA test is administered, both the parents and the child have to submit to the testing to get an accurate result. Once paternity has been established, the biological father will have to pay child support. A court will determine the amount based on several factors, including the parties' incomes. Failure to pay child support can result in penalties for the party who fails to pay.

Source: Florida Department of Revenue, "Establishing Legal Paternity," Accessed November 24, 2014

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