Introduction to Paternity
To prove paternity in Florida, you will need to file a petition with the court to establish paternity. You will also ask for a time-sharing schedule and or child support. Paternity means that you are trying to legally determine who the father of the child(ren).
How to file your petition
If you are representing yourself and you are a non-lawyer you may file your petition and other documents electronically, by mail or in person at your county’s court. If you choose to file electronically be sure to follow Florida administrative rule 2.525 on electronic filing Once you file electronically, you also receive all pleadings from the court electronically.
In order to serve and receive documents by e-mail, you must tell the court that you wish to do so by filing a form called the Designation of Current Mailing and Email Address. Once you “designate” your email you will have to put your email address on everything you sign.
Notice to the other party (respondent).
Next, you will nest to notify the other person, the alleged parent. This is service. If you know their address you will need to hire a process server to personally serve them. If you don’t, you may serve them with constructive notice. This means that you tell the court that you tried very hard to serve the person, but you couldn’t find them. The court will let you put a notice of your case in the paper.
Once the other party is served they will have 20 calendar days to file an answer.
Possible case outcomes
There are three possible “next steps” once you file your petition.
If after 20 days, no answer is filed by the respondent, you can file a motion for default. You will be able to schedule a final hearing and the court will usually grant your paternity petition. They will order that the other party is legally the father.
If the respondent files and answer and agrees with everything in your paternity petition or an answer and waiver, then you can schedule a final hearing. The final hearing is where the judge will rule the other party is the legal father.
If the other party files an answer that contradicts any of the facts in your petition then you will have to file a notice for trial. You will have to disclose more information called mandatory disclosures. This is a list of mandatory disclosures required. A DNA test will be required. Other paperwork will also be required, see the paragraph below on additional documents.
Frequently asked questions about paternity cases in Florida.
What is the respondent files an answer denying he is the child’s father?
If the respondent denies being the father, you should file a motion for scientific paternity testing or a DNA test. A motion is simply a request to the court for an order. In this case, you are requesting the court order the alleged father to submit to a DNA test.
What if the father signed the birth certificate?
That proves paternity in Florida as a matter of law, meaning nothing else has to be done to prove the paternity of the man who signed the birth certificate.
What other paperwork to I need to file with my petition?
With your petition you must file the following:
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit.
- Notice of Social Security Number
- Family Law Financial Affidavit.
- Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosures.
- Child Support Guidelines Worksheet For more information on this form see my How to determine child support post.
- Parenting Plan
- Proposed Final Judgment of Paternity.
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