STEPS TO TAKE TO PROTECT YOUR PATERNAL RIGHTS IF YOU BELIEVE THAT A WOMAN IS CARRYING YOUR CHILD, OR IF YOU BELIEVE A WOMAN GAVE BIRTH TO YOUR CHILD
   
Answer:  If you are an unmarried biological father, or suspect that a female may be carrying your child, you should take the following steps to protect your paternal rights, and to prevent the Mother from allowing someone else to adopt the child: 

A)  The first thing you should do is to register with the Florida Putative Father Registry.  You can find that by clicking this link: 

http://www.doh.state.fl.us/planning_eval/vital_statistics/putative.htm

B)   Registering with the Putative Father Registry puts everyone on notice that you are making a claim of paternity of the child.  It will also ensure that you given legal notice in case the Mother tries to place the child for adoption.  But that alone will not protect your rights.  You must also make affirmative and definite measures to give financial assistance to the Mother during the pregnancy, or after the birth by helping to support the child. I recommend mailing a certified letter to the Mother offering assistance, and even including a check made payable to the Mother writing "child support" in the memo line.  Keep accurate and detailed records of everything you do.

C)    Do not sign the birth certificate until you have gotten a DNA test confirming that you are the biological father.  The reason is that under Florida Law §742.10(1), http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2013/742.10 if you allow yourself to be listed child's birth certificate as the child's father for more than 60 days, you are legally established as the child's father.  If you later determine the child is not yours, it may prove very difficult if not impossible to disestablish your paternity.  The grounds for disestablishing paternity are set forth in §742.18 Fla. Stats.  http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2013/742.18



IF YOU HAVE A CHILD YOU SUSPECT MAY NOT BE YOURS, DO NOT DO ANYTHING ELSE UNTIL YOU READ FLORIDA STATUTE §742.18  http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2013/742.18

By Florida Law if a child is conceived during an intact marriage, then the child is presumed to be legitimate.  This means that the Husband and Wife are presumed to be the child's legal parents.  The operative word here is "intact".  If the couple is separated, such as in the case of a married couple after a divorce petition is filed, then this is not considered to be an "intact" marriage. If under this scenario, the Wife gets pregnant by a man other than the Husband, then the biological father in that case would have legal standing to bring a paternity action.

Otherwise, the biological father would not have legal standing to bring a paternity action if the child was born during an intact marriage, even if he proves he is the biological father, if the Husband chooses to accept paternity.

However, in some cases, the Husband may not want to accept paternity.  In such a case, if he discovers new evidence that he is not the legal father, such as a loveletter from the biological father mentioning a sexual affair with the wife, then he may take legal action to disestablish paternity. However, if after discovering this new evidence, he takes certain actions towards caring for the child, as otherwise described more fully in the statute, he may waive his right to disestablish paternity.  This also goes for cases in which an unmarried biological father first accepts paternity, and the discovers new evidence that he may not be the father as well. 

If you have a suspicion that you may not be the father of the child, speak now or forever hold your peace.  Because if you have the suspicion now, and then you seek to legitimize the child, or accept paternity, you cannot claim later that your suspicion is newly discovered evidence.  I represented a Mother in just such a case.  The Father knew when they were dating that she may not have been the child's father. But he wasn't sure.  He decided it really didn't matter to him, and he married the Mother, and then added his name to the child's birth certificate. 

When the Mother then later sought child support from him, he got a DNA test, and sought legal relief in the form of a Petition to Disestablish Paternity pursuant to ­section 742.18 Fla. Stats.  I filed  Motion to Dismiss on behalf of the Mother alleging primarily that he did not have newly discovered evidence, and that in any event, he took actions to care for the child after knowing he might not have been the Father, and by so doing prevented the biological father from asserting his paternal rights.  The Trial Court granted my Motion to Dismiss, and the Father was forced to pay child support for the child.  The Father appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, and the Trial Court's ruling was upheld.  Now as a result of his actions, he must pay child support for a child who is not his biologically.  See Quaintance v. Hooks, 71 So.3d 908 (Fla 1st DCA 2011).

At Gerald Wilkerson Law, we can advise you of the appropriate steps to take whether you are the Father, or the Mother in cases such as these.

 

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