How Do You Disestablish Paternity in Florida?
In Florida, it is possible for a man to disestablish paternity—even once it has already been established or after a child support order has been entered. When paternity is terminated, parental rights and parental responsibilities—including child support obligations—will also be extinguished.
That being said, it is not easy to disestablish paternity in Florida. It can only be done in a limited number of circumstances and there are strict procedural requirements that must be followed. A seemingly minor mistake could lead to a disestablishment petition being outright denied. Here, our Tampa paternity lawyers explain the most important things you need to know about disproving paternity in Florida.
Understanding the Difference Between a Biological Father and Legal Father
As a starting point, it is important to understand the difference between a biological father and a legal father. A man who has paternity rights is a child’s legal father—and it is not always the same man as the biological father of a child.
If you are both the biological and legal father of a child, you do not have the right to disestablish paternity. Even if you voluntarily give up parental rights, you still have a legal duty to pay child support.
However, if you are the legal father of the child and you find out that you are not actually the biological father, you may be able to disestablish paternity. However, you are only eligible to bring a disestablishment petition if you did know you were the biological father when you became the legal father.
An Overview of the Disestablishment Process in Florida
In Florida, disestablishing paternity is done by submitting a petition to the appropriate court. Under Florida law (Florida Statutes § 742.18), there are several specific steps that a man must take when submitting such a petition, including:
- Ensuring that the mother is notified that a disestablishment of paternity petition has been submitted to the court;
- Filing an affidavit that swears that the disestablishment is based on new evidence that was not known when paternity/child support was initially established; and
- Submitting to genetic testing that disproves biological parentage or submitting a sworn statement indicating that genetic testing was sought and the child’s mother prevented it.
When good cause has been shown in an initial disestablishment of paternity petition, a Florida court can order genetic testing of a child. It is worth emphasizing the fact that new information is required to disestablish paternity. If a man knew that he was not the biological father of a child for many years, he cannot suddenly decide to “withdraw” paternity. Failure to take immediate action could be grounds to deny a disestablishment of paternity claim.
Consult With Your Tampa Paternity Attorney Today
At Bubley & Bubley, P.A., our Florida family law attorneys have extensive experience handling the full range of paternity cases. If you have any questions about disestablishing paternity, we are available to help. To get fully private legal guidance, please contact us right away. From our office location in Tampa, we handle family law cases throughout the region, including in Clearwater, Holiday, Trilby, Crystal Beach, and Ozona.