Watch this Movie to Learn About Paternity Actions.
My name is attorney Eric Kay. Some clients have asked me "If I have a child with someone, but we have never been married, am I entitled to anything." The answer to that question is yes, and the legal means to obtain relief is called a paternity action.
A paternity action in Florida is somewhat similar to a divorce, but with some crucial differences. In a divorce, a couple's financial assets and liabilities are analyzed. This is for the purpose of equitable distribution, in other words, dividing the property and debts of the parties to the marriage in a fair but not necessarily equal way. The relative income of the parties is ascertained for the purpose of determining child support amounts, and alimony, or spousal support amounts. If there are children born of the marriage, a parenting plan is also at issue, which specifies the timesharing of the minor children with each parent.
As compared to a divorce, a paternity action is more limited in scope. The primary focus of a paternity action is to establish for legal purposes who the parents of a minor child are, and to set forth legal obligations to make sure that the child at issue is taken care of. Since the parties to a paternity action were not married, alimony or spousal support is not at issue. Equitable distribution is also typically not involved since the two parents involved never became one under the law by getting married.
Thus, a paternity action primarily involves rights of child support and child visitation (or custody as it was previously referred to). The first issue in a paternity case is whether the parties in the action are the actual parents of the minor child or children involved. Typically, one party will allege that he or she is a parent, and that the party who is served with the action is the other natural parent. The party served will either admit or deny that he or she is the natural parent of the child. If the party denies parental status, typically the Court will order that a DNA test is conducted, as this is conclusive evidence to determine the issue.
The next factor that is usually sorted out is child support. In Florida, child support is based upon guidelines, which in turn are based on the relative income of the parties, and who is the primary residential parent. In most cases, child support is a straightforward equation that takes into account the total monthly income of the parties, and what percentage of the total income is attributable to each person. The Florida Child Support Guidelines set forth a monthly child support amount based on the total income and the number of children, and divide this amount by the pro rata share, or percentage share that each parent makes. Only in limited cases and for exceptional circumstances will the Court order different amounts than are calculated by this formula.
Finally the parties or the Court must determine a Parenting Plan to ensure that the parties have certain minimum rights as to visitation and time sharing with the child or children involved. The Parenting Plan can often become a point of argument because it is a very detailed document that specifies how the child or children will split and share time with the parents. Every weekday, every weekend, every holiday, every spring break, and every summer vacation is accounted for. If the parties cannot agree on their own or at mediation, the Court will determine a Parenting Plan I the best interests of the minor child or children involved.
While there are other issues that arise in the course of a Paternity case in Florida, these are the primary ones of concern that typically take the most time. Since equitable distribution and spousal support or alimony are not at issue however, the absence of these key issues make paternity cases easier to resolve in many circumstance than a divorce involving the very same people and issues.
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