Paternity is the formal English word for fatherhood. On its face, it doesn't carry any particular connotation. However, when applied in a legal context, the meaning can take on varying shades. When a child is wanted, so might be the identity of being the father. However, sometimes hearing the word paternity triggers concern that you could face obligations you don't feel you should have to bear.
Regardless of what side of the fence you are on, you need to know that in Florida you have legal rights. And to ensure you are confident that you are protecting your rights when circumstances call for it, your first step should be to consult with an experienced paternity lawyer.
Under the umbrella of rights, it is important to acknowledge that they extend to all the parties involved in a paternity case. The state takes the position that every child deserves to have a legal father. The benefits of such identification to the child include:
- Access to family health history information
- Access to medical care through insurance from either parent
- A base of financial support from both parents
- Access to benefits from Social Security, the military or from inheritance
On the parents' side of the rights scale things can be more complicated. While identifying the mother is typically straightforward, establishing paternity can be less so. If a man and woman are married, the man is presumed to be the father. If they are not married, a variety of means might be used to establish paternity. For example, an unmarried father who wishes to assume fatherhood could:
- Marry the mother after the child's birth
- Marry the mother after the birth and agree to be listed as the father on the birth certificate and support the child
- Sign a legal agreement voluntarily acknowledging paternity
A man could also assume paternity by presenting himself publicly as the father. He might even be able to win court-granted parental rights by showing he established and maintained a close parent-child type relationship.
If a man named in a paternity suit wishes to dispute the claim, he may need to seek DNA or blood testing to prove he is not a child's father.