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A paternity action seeks a legal declaration as to who the Father of a child is. It is sometimes necessary if the parents of a child are not married. In such an action, once the court adjudicates who the father is (there is never a dispute as to who the mother is) the court will then adjudicate issues of timesharing and support. In the old days the court used blood tests which could be unreliable but now with DNA testing the results are reported with 99% accuracy. There are even statutory provisions for a second DNA test, if the first test conducted is challenged.
Again in the old times, only women could file such an action. Therefore if a mother was willing to forego child support the Father had no remedy and could be barred from visiting with his child. Now the statute has been amended to permit men to file such an action. That permits men to establish their parental rights but also exposes them to an award of child support. Since the parties are not married no alimony can be awarded nor may property issues be resolved by the court.
The same standards apply to resolving the child support and parenting issues in paternity actions as do in divorce actions. The fathers have no lesser rights and the mothers have no more rights because they were not married to each other at the time of the birth.
Substantial complications arise when a child is born and the mother is married to someone other than the father of the child. If the biological father does not assert his rights timely and permits the child to be raised by the mother's husband, there could be a waiver problem down the road if the biological father subsequently attempts to assert his rights later. That could cause substantial psychological damage to the child which the courts seek to prevent.
Likewise if the mother waits years and years before she sues who she thinks the father is and then seeks retroactive child support since the birth, there are wavier type defenses available to the father.
A spouse who does not make timely support payments can have his or her wages garnished through the Florida Child Support Enforcement Department. The court orders that alimony be automatically taken from the paying spouse's paycheck. The court can also order that the paying spouse give the alimony payments to the Support Enforcement Department, which will give the money to the receiving spouse. The department acts as a third party which manages the collection and distribution of support payments on a statewide basis. If the paying spouse of child support or alimony fails to make timely and sufficient payments, the court can suspend the paying spouse's driver's license.
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