Who May Initiate Paternity Lawsuits in Florida?

Florida family law generally presumes that the husband and wife are the parents of a child born during their marriage. Conversely, paternity must first be established when a person intends to assert fathers’ rights on a child who is born out of wedlock.

How Paternity May Be Established in Florida

  • By written agreement: The mother and father may enter into a binding agreement stating that the man is the child’s father.
  • Court action: If the parties cannot agree, paternity may be established through a lawsuit where a paternity test may be ordered and the results thereof examined by a judge.
  • Department Of Revenue (DOR) adjudication

Who May Initiate Paternity Action?

Under Florida Statute Section 742.011, the mother, father, or the child may file a case to establish paternity. In addition, Florida Statute Section 409.2557 authorizes the DOR to establish paternity either administratively, or through judicial proceedings. The DOR’s authority also includes enforcement of child support obligations against any person legally established as the father.

Can DOR Sue after Mother Withdraws Paternity Case?

As previously mentioned, the DOR may initiate a paternity lawsuit against the alleged biological father in court. But when it sues on behalf of the child’s mother who later on withdraws the petition, the DOR can no longer file another petition for paternity against the same alleged father who raises the defense of ‘res judicata’. Res judicata is a legal principle that prevents a matter that has already been adjudged between the same parties from being litigated a second time. This is the gist of the Florida Court of Appeals ruling when it affirmed the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of the alleged father.

The court, however, did not preclude another lawsuit against the alleged father, for as long as it is initiated by a different party such as the child for whose benefit paternity is sought.

Establishing paternity involves complicated rules of procedure that are best handled by an experienced attorney. In Tampa, Florida, the lawyers of the Anton Legal Group have 30 years of proven experience in paternity cases, helping clients enter into binding paternity agreements and when necessary, filing a case for paternity in court.

Upon establishing paternity, our lawyers can assist you in ensuring that your parental rights are respected and parental obligations are correctly apportioned between the legal parents.

We invite you to call our attorney for a consultation at (813) 443-5249.