Why is establishing paternity so important?

While there is a natural tendency to associate family law with topics like divorce, adoption and even grandparents’ rights, there are other topics that might not immediately spring to people’s minds, but which also fall under this same umbrella.

By way of example, consider the topic of paternity. While there may be some inherent skepticism about this topic thanks to outlandish and borderline nonsensical television programming in recent years, the fact remains that paternity is an incredibly important matter in the eyes of the law.

In recognition of this reality, today’s post, the first in a series, will start taking a closer look at the issue of paternity here in Florida.

What exactly does it mean to establish paternity?  

When paternity is established, it means a child has a designated legal father. This is important for them not just from a psychological perspective, but also from a legal one, as it vests them with a number of rights and benefits.

Similarly, the establishment of paternity also grants both parents certain rights and responsibilities.

How is paternity established?

There are a variety of ways in which paternity can be established. For example, if the parents are married at the time the child is born, the husband is automatically presumed to be the father, such that no action need be taken concerning the establishment of paternity.

If the parents are unmarried, the establishment of paternity can be similarly easy or considerably more difficult, particularly if there is some dispute as to who the child’s father is.

What if the parents are unmarried, there is no dispute as to paternity and the father is by the mother’s side?

Florida law allows paternity to be established voluntarily by both parents while in the hospital. Here, the parents must complete and both sign in the presence of a notary public a document known as the Paternity Acknowledgement form (i.e., the DH-511).

This document, which takes effect as soon as it is signed, will be mailed by the hospital to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics, which will then record the birth and place the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate.

We’ll continue this discussion in future posts, examining more scenarios in which paternity can be established, and the rights and responsibilities granted to legal fathers.

If you have questions about paternity or a related matter — child custody, child support, relocation — consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can provide answers and pursue solutions.


At Tampa Bay Legal Center, P.A., we care about our clients and about helping them resolve the legal issues they face in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Our law firm is led by attorney Carl J. Ohall who, for more than 25 years, has helped people throughout the Tampa area overcome legal challenges that affect their families, finances & health.

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