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Disestablishing Paternity - What to do When You're Not the Father

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How can you disestablish paternity when you're not the real father of a child? In other words, how can you sever the legal relationship you have with a child if you are not biologically the father?

In the State of Florida, there are several things a man can do that establishes paternity - you are legally the father of a child or an action established a presumption that you are the father.

For example, if a man is married to a woman and she has a child during the marriage, the husband is legally the father - regardless of whether he actually is the father, biologically. At the time of a divorce, the husband would be responsible for paying child support, among other things, even if the wife had the child with another man during their marriage.

As another example, if a man signs a birth certificate, it is presumed he is the father of that child - again, regardless of whether he is biologically the father. Subsequently, if the mother applies for state benefits such as food stamps, Florida pursues child support against the father listed on the birth certificate.

If you find yourself in a similar position such as above, it is imperative that you contact an attorney immediately. Florida Statue 742.18 lists the criteria under which a man who is legally the father may disestablish paternity - as well as situations under which he CANNOT disestablish paternity under any circumstances.

One of the most difficult hurdles a legal father can encounter is a judge denying a petition to disestablish paternity if there is no "other father" willing to step in. Judges frequently refuse to leave a child without a father, regardless of whether the child actually has a relationship with the legal father. However, on October 11, 2017, a new case could shift that common pattern. The Fourth District Court of Appeals, in L.G. v. Department of Children and Families, 4D17-2004, stated as follows: "[T]he trial court erred in ruling that another putative father must be willing to establish paternity before appellant's petition for disestablishment of paternity could be granted. Section 742.18 contains no such requirement." In that case, the judge had refused to permit a legal father to disestablish paternity when he was not biologically the father - and the higher court said that was error and he should have been permitted to disestablish paternity over the child that was not his.

Disestablishing paternity is a very delicate and complicated road and should be handled by attorneys. Contact us for a free consultation and we can go over your options.

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