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Orlando Paternity Lawyers

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A paternity case is the legal procedure for establishing the natural and biological father of a child. A paternity action can be filed by either a mother or a father. Once paternity is established by the Court, the birth certificate will be amended as necessary, child support will be awarded, and the Court may or may not address a timesharing schedule depending on the circumstances.

Establishing Paternity in Florida

The first step in any paternity action is to legally establish paternity. This is typically done through genetic testing to confirm that the father is the natural and biological father of the child. Until paternity is established, the father has no legal rights to the child under Florida law. A party in a paternity case must show that paternity is disputed and that there is good cause for genetic testing in order to require the court to issue an order to have a paternity test done. In other words, the mother cannot request random testing of an individual, unless there is a good faith basis to believe that the individual is the biological father of the minor child. Additionally, prior to ordering paternity testing, a trial court must determine that the testing would be in the child’s best interest. However, in most paternity cases the parties will consent to genetic testing to expedite the process of establishing paternity.

Creating a Parenting Plan

Once paternity is established, the parties will need to create a parenting plan, if they are no longer living together. A parenting plan defines the rights and responsibilities of both parents. A parenting plan must, at a minimum, describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child and include the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent. Further the parenting plan must designate who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care and how health care decisions shall be made amongst the parents. The parenting plan must also address school-related matters and extracurricular activities, including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration. Finally, it must describe in adequate detail the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child. Typically, the parenting plan will designate that the parents have shared parental responsibility. However, it may also state that one parents has ultimate decision making authority over certain issues or, in unusual cases, that one parent has sole parental responsibility.

Establishing Child Support in Florida

Under Florida law, child support is calculated pursuant to the child support guidelines. The Florida child support guidelines consider the income of each parent, the number of children, and the overnights that each parent spends with the child or children. Additionally, the child support guidelines consider the cost of health insurance paid on behalf of the minor children and any child care costs such as daycare.

Paternity Trials

In the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement at mediation, the case will proceed to a trial in front of a Judge. The Judge will hear evidence to establish paternity as well as evidence to establish the parenting plan. Based on the competent substantial evidence presented to the trial court along with the arguments presented, the trial judge will create a parenting plan that he or she deems fit. The decision of the trial judge is typically binding and final, unless there is a basis to appeal the decision.