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Florida's Paternity Laws, Custody and Birth Certificates, Part II

This post is a follow up to an earlier post which began to explore this topic. It is difficult to understand, and maybe more difficult to explain, what rights a father has to his child after he executes an Acknowledgment of Paternity form and before he gains "custody" rights in Court. What rights could a father have if they do not include the rights to either see the child (time-sharing) or make decisions for the child (parental responsibility)?

Establishing paternity, at this level, likely provides you the right to be put on notice that someone is attempting to adopt the child. Because you are entitled to notice, and possibly service (this is a little more complicated), you would have the opportunity to show up and attempt to assert your custody rights to your child in lieu of the child being adopted. (This right, by the way, can also be accomplished by adding your name to the Putative Father Registry - http://www.floridahealth.gov/certificates/certificates/birth/Putative_Father/index.html - without incurring the repercussions discussed below.)

Further, having paternity established via the Acknowledgment of Paternity likely prohibits you from later asking for a DNA test. The thought behind this is that you waive the right to a DNA test and accept the responsibility of this child without the necessity of a DNA test. There are exceptions to this rule such as if fraud has been involved or if you were under duress. Further, I have had Judges order DNA tests in direct opposition to the stated rule on the Acknowledgment of Paternity. My theory is, it never hurts to try.

Because you waive the right to later contest paternity or request a DNA test, signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity form nearly guarantees your responsibility to provide child support for this child.

If you are confused, as stated before so are we. My best advice if you are a parent dealing with these issues is a) contact an attorney before you do anything b) if you have already signed an acknowledgement of paternity, file a Petition for Paternity (confusing name, I know, sorry) to establish rights to either see the child (time-sharing) or make decisions for the child (parental responsibility). Do not, under any circumstances, sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity, if you have ANY doubt that a child is yours. Finally, if you think that a child is your but do not want to do anything about it at this time, at a minimum, register with the Putative Father registry.

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