If a mother is married, the mother’s husband at birth is the legal father of the child.

If the mother is unmarried when the child is born, but later marries the child’s father, the husband becomes the legal father.

But if the child is like 40% of the babies born in Florida to unmarried mothers, they do not have a legal father until their father establishes paternity.

A common misconception is that if the father’s name is on the birth certificate, he has legal status as the father. Even if a father signs a child’s birth certificate, he will still need to establish paternity through an order of the court. This court order will grant him parental rights, such as time-sharing (formerly called visitation or custody).

A paternity determination can be obtained by Petition (a request filed with the court) by either the father or the mother. The mother must file for a determination of paternity in order to obtain child support from the biological father. A paternity petition must be filed by the biological father to give the father parental rights, including time-sharing (formerly called visitation or custody) with the child.


When either party contests Paternity, (claiming that the assumed father is not the biological father), the court may require the child, mother, and alleged father to submit to certain tests. The test results are admissible in evidence and will be weighed along with other evidence of the paternity of the alleged father. If the genetic testing shows a statistical probability of paternity equals or exceeds 95%, there is a presumption of paternity. Currently, genetic testing is generally more than 99% accurate.

If paternity is established in a court proceeding, the court may award retroactive child support for a period up to 24 months from the date the paternity action was filed.

Children deserve to have a legal father. Fathers have the right to experience the joys (and sometimes heartache) of being a parent. Moreover, parents have a moral and legal obligation to support their biological children.

Unmarried biological parents are recommended to move quickly to establish paternity for the sake of their children.


Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, PA has been helping South Florida’s families for over 35 years. Call us at 305-653-5555 or email us at [email protected] for a FREE consultation with one of our experienced Family Law Attorneys.