Disestablishing paternity in Florida

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To most Floridians, the word "paternity" means a legal proceeding to determine whether a male is the biological father of a particular minor child. However, the same biological tests that are used to establish paternity can also be used to disestablish paternity, that is, that a male who has been ordered to pay child support is not the biological father of the child in question.

The outcome of a disestablishment proceeding will depend mainly upon the accuracy and validity of various scientific tests that are used to determine whether the child's DNA matches the DNA of the alleged father. Nevertheless, the proceeding has a number of legal steps that must be properly completed before the court can make a decision on the scientific evidence.

The proceeding must be initiated by filing a petition in the court that has jurisdiction over the child support obligation. Generally speaking, that court will be the court that first entered the child support order. The petition must be accompanied by an affidavit executed by the petitioner stating that new evidence has come to light since the entry of the original child support order.

The petitioner must also submit the results of scientific tests that are "generally acceptable within the scientific community to show a probability of paternity" and that demonstrate that the petitioner cannot be the father of the child. If the petitioner was unable to gain access to the child for such testing prior to filing the petition, an affidavit to that effect can be submitted asking the court to order that the child be made available for testing. Finally, the petitioner must file an affidavit stating that all child support payments are current.

The court must consider seven factors before making a decision. Basically, the court must find that the scientific evidence supports a finding that the petitioner is not the father of the child and that he has done nothing to prejudice the interests of the child. Anyone who is considering filing a disestablishment petition will find that consulting an experienced family lawyer will simplify the process and enhance the chances of obtaining a favorable order.

Source: leg.state.fl.us, "The 2017 Florida Statutes," accessed on Jan. 8, 2018

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