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Disestablishing paternity: When you learn the child isn't yours

In most cases, fathers establish paternity to claim parental rights like visitation or joint custody. But what happens if you find out that the child you thought you helped conceive isn't really yours? Not only do you have to deal with the fact that your girlfriend cheated on you, but now you're wondering if you're legally on the hook for another man's kid.

As with many legal questions, the answer to this one is both simple and complicated - it depends. Dealing with questions about paternity can be difficult and complicated. It is important to understand your rights when it comes to disestablishing paternity.

There are circumstances that provide you with a way out, while there are some that result in an obligation to provide financially for the child.

Documentation matters

If you have signed any documentation, such as a birth certificate, that identifies you as the father, you could be responsible for child support.

However, in Florida, if you realize within 60 days of signing any such documents that you are not the father, you can legally rescind the declaration and avoid making 18 years of support payments for a child that isn't yours.

If you don't find out before 90 days have passed since you acknowledge paternity, the process for disestablishing paternity is much more complicated.

Requirements for filing a petition

This is where it gets complicated. To file a petition in the court to disestablish paternity, you must provide evidence about the real paternity. You can either bring scientific evidence that you are not the father or request that the court order a DNA test to prove paternity.

You must also be current with any child support you had previously been ordered to pay. Also, you must not be married to the mother, have adopted the child or signed any kind of document acknowledging paternity after finding out the child was not yours.

In addition to the above requirements for filing a petition, you are ineligible to disestablish paternity if the child was conceived by artificial insemination while you were married to the mother.

Finally, the child in question must be under the age of 18.

Establishing or disestablishing paternity can be a complicated process, both in and out of court. For help dealing with child support and paternity issues, contact a local Florida attorney experienced with family law.

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