New Low-Cost DNA Test Could Make Establishing Paternity Easier

Knowing who their parents are does not just benefit a child’s psychological and emotional wellbeing. It is also important for health reasons. Having this information may yield important insight related to how prevalent certain diseases are within the parent’s family or the presence of genetic conditions a child could face as an adult. Questions surrounding paternity also have implications for child support and child custody rights and obligations that a mother would likely have a vested interest in confirming. A DNA testing company recently released a low cost home paternity kit in several states, including Florida; men can use this to verify whether they fathered a particular child. As technology improves and tests like this become easier, cheaper and faster to perform, establishing paternity could become a much more streamlined process. The DNA test is just one component of proving paternity. In addition, Florida law requires a judicial declaration of parentage before a man assumes the legal rights and responsibilities of fatherhood.

Legal Process

Paternity proceedings are generally restricted to cases involving children born out of wedlock because there is an automatic legal presumption that the man is the father if a couple is married. Additionally, if the mother and the purported father marry at any time following the child’s birth, the couple are collectively treated as the child’s parents from birth. Thus, the only time paternity would be an issue between a married couple is if one spouse wanted to challenge it. Outside of marriage, establishing paternity is necessary for purposes of obtaining child support and child custody court orders.

Both the man and woman can petition for a paternity determination and the man has the option of signing a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, or the couple can execute an affidavit claiming paternity that is filed with the court. Paternity hearings are usually closed to the public, and it is a crime for a media outlet to publish the names of the parties involved. A judge has the authority to order child support, set parenting plans and order the father to pay expenses related to the birth of the child and costs for the paternity proceedings. If the paternity judgment is limited to a child support award and is silent about parenting plans, the party receiving child support is presumed to have sole custody and rights to all the parenting time, but the other party does have the ability to gain these rights at a later time. However, if the paternity judgment does not include provisions for child support or a parenting plan, the mother is presumed to have sole custody and all rights to parenting time.

Scientific Testing

In the absence of a signed acknowledgment or affidavit claiming paternity, DNA testing is necessary to prove if a man is the father. A court can order DNA testing at any time in a paternity case, and a party may also ask the court to order the testing. The child, the mother and the alleged father must submit samples for testing by a qualified laboratory, and the test results are admitted into evidence unless a party challenges the lab’s conclusions at least 10 days before the final hearing. If the test results show a 95 percent or greater probability of paternity, a rebuttable presumption is created that the man is the father of the child. If the results are challenged, the court may order additional testing upon a party’s request, and the requesting party will be responsible for the expenses incurred.

Contact a Family Law Attorney

Questions around the paternity of a child have long term repercussions, so it is important to make sure the man identified as the child’s father is conclusively established as the legal parent. While it may just be an issue of filing the correct paperwork, consulting with a family law attorney can help either parent understand the ramifications of these proceedings and identify additional legal issues a parent may not foresee. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. helps parents seeking either to establish or challenge paternity and is available to help you. Contact us for a consultation today.

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