What is Paternity?

Hello, I'm Kenny Leigh of Kenny Leigh and Associates. Our firm exclusively represents men and family law, that's all we do. I'm here with Kent Griffin a senior associate at our Jacksonville office and today we are going to talk about paternity. Kent can you just give a very brief explanation of what paternity is?

Paternity is when there's a child born out of wedlock and it's the action that's initiated to establish rights for that child.

Okay so basically a couple is not married and a have a child right correct? Okay all right so once the child is born what rights does the father have?

Actually, the father doesn't have any rights when a child is born out of wedlock. All the rights are automatically conferred on the mother.

Okay and to be even more specific, a mother has what is called “sole parental responsibility” and the father has nothing, is that right?

That's correct.

Okay, a lot of people don't know that but the mother does can do whatever she wants with the child at that point. All right so how does the father, let's say, the father signs the birth certificate at the hospital does he have rights then?

No, he does not. That's just acknowledgment that he's the father but there aren't any rights that are conferred along with the signing of the birth certificate.

Very good. Okay, so if the father has no rights then when the child is born how does the father get rights?

He must file a petition with the court and ask the court to give him those rights. It is the title of the document, it’s a petition to establish paternity. It has to get through the formal process to keep those rights established.

Okay, and what kind of rights can he get with that? With that document?

The main thing is an adjudication that he actually is the legal father and the establishment of a parenting plan that includes parental responsibility and time-sharing. You know, a comprehensive parenting plan.

Okay, so basically after he files, provided there's nothing bad, like some serious felonies of some sort, and not even all felonies, but some felonies to deal with violence or child stuff, basically it's easy to get a father shared parental responsibility and a parenting plan, which actually makes them equal to the mother, right?

Okay, so we've established the father has no rights at the time of birth until judicially established. What about child support?

So when paternity is established the court will also establish how child support obligation will either paid by the father or the mother.

Okay, and child support is basically established the same way it's established in a divorce or anything of that nature?

At that point, correct. Then it comes with the father and the mother and then based on whether whatever time-sharing schedule was established one quarter.

Very good. Then an arrearage. There's a lot of talk about arrearage with regard to child support. So in a paternity action is it possible for the mother to get an arrearage from the father?

Yes, it is. The court has the discretion to go back 24 months prior to a petition to establish paternity to establish the retroactive arrearage.

Okay, and that is very important. A lot of people believe you can go all the way back to birth once the mother files for an arrearage and that is not the case. So basically if the child is 10 years old and a petition was filed they could only go back to about year 8, right?


And there's also a lot of defenses to child support arrearage as well. So make sure to speak with an attorney about that.

Okay, let's say a man receives a letter from the Department of Revenue regarding a child. What should that person do?

The most important thing to do is to read that letter from the Department of Revenue. It will include a lot of important information. It will describe what that person needs to do to respond, you know, release deadlines of the time in which that person must respond. And if you don't take action pursuant to that letter, the court will move forward without that person and establish child support without any input from the father.  

And that is huge. It is huge. Do not ignore a letter from the Department of Revenue. They will default you. They will establish an arrearage based solely on what the mother says and establish child support based solely on what the mother says.

So, very quickly, there are ways to disestablish from paternity once you have signed the birth certificate. But you really should get a DNA test before you sign a birth certificate because it is not easy.

Very quickly, Kent, let's wind up talking about jurisdiction and venue. Where would a paternity case be filed, as far as how do you figure out if it's in Florida and what county in Florida?

Okay, you would file it wherever the child has been for the past six months. As far as which state to file it in,  it's either the county in which the father lives or the mother.

Yep, so it can be either County. All right anyway that's paternity and very brief description of a Paternity.

Kenny Leigh and Associates exclusively represents men in the area of family law. Thank you.

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