It is no secret that times have changed for those of us who recall when the vast majority of children were born to married parents. Just as the divorce rate has risen over the past decade, so has the number of children born to unmarried mothers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2011 Report, the national percentage of births to unmarried mothers remains stable at around 40 per cent. In Volusia County the average is approximately 42 per cent.
When parents who are not married have a child, they acknowledge biological paternity in a number of ways. The father may sign a sworn affidavit in the hospital, and his name will go on the birth certificate. The parents may give the baby the father’s last name. Sooner or later, it is wise for the parents to obtain a court ordered determination that the biological father is the legal father. The order is called a final judgment of paternity. Either parent may petition the court for an order of paternity. The order confers the biological father the same status, rights and responsibilities of the mother.
A final judgment of paternity should include provisions that cover timesharing, child support, school designation, transportation costs, IRS exemptions, as well as which parent pays for insurance, and uncovered medical costs, among other things.
At the Rice & Rose Law Firm, we draft and negotiate paternity settlement agreements, written contracts when approved by the judge are enforceable by the contempt power of the court, if either parent does not comply with the terms. This document is a very important one. It should comply with the laws of Florida and cover all the potential issues. It must be filed properly with the clerk and approved by the court.
When parents cannot come to terms on an agreement, we represent our clients over the course of the litigation from filing the petition to establish paternity to mediation and on to trial, if necessary.
Feel free to contact us at (386) 257-1222 to schedule a consultation if you have questions about a paternity matter.