Paternity establishes a legal relationship between the mother, child and biological father. When the Court enters a final judgment of paternity, the child has the same rights as a child born of parents married to each other. This includes the right to inherit from a parent, to receive financial support from the parents, social security benefits and health insurance coverage. The father is entitled to visitation rights, to engage in shared parenting of the child and object to the adoption of the child.
Florida Statute 742.021 explains the process to file a paternity action as follows:
(1) The proceedings must be in the circuit court of the county where the plaintiff resides or the county where the defendant resides.
(2) The complaint shall assert sufficient facts charging the paternity of the child. Upon filing of a complaint seeking to determine paternity, the clerk of court shall issue a notice to each petitioner and to each respondent or defendant along with service of the petition. The notice must be in substantially the following form:
In order to preserve the right to notice and consent to the adoption of the child, an unmarried biological father must, as the “registrant,” file a notarized claim of paternity form with the Florida Putative Father Registry maintained by the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health which includes confirmation of his willingness and intent to support the child for whom paternity is claimed in accordance with state law. The claim of paternity may be filed at any time before the child’s birth, but a claim of paternity may not be filed after the date a petition is filed for termination of parental rights.
(3) Process served on the defendant must require the defendant to file written defenses to the complaint in the same manner as suits in chancery. Upon application and proof under oath, the court may issue a writ of ne exeat against the defendant on such terms and conditions and conditioned upon bond in such amount as the court may determine.