Establishing Paternity in Florida

Establishing paternity in Florida is best done at birth in a hospital, if possible. For married couples, it is automatic. For unmarried couples, it is still a fairly straightforward process. 

However, there are other ways to establish paternity beyond this. Avenues include legitimation, acknowledgment, court order, and the Florida Department of Revenue. Although paternity could also be established in court, it is an expensive and time-consuming process.

5 ways to establish paternity in Florida

There are several different ways to establish paternity in Florida, including the following:

1. At birth in the hospital

Usually, the most straightforward route to establishing paternity occurs in the hospital at a child’s birth. If the parents are married to one another, the process is automatic. Paternity is established without any further action needed from either parent.

The process is slightly more complicated if the parents of the child are unmarried. In this case, paternity may be voluntarily established with the cooperation of both parents. How? With a notary present, both parents complete a Paternity Acknowledgment form. However, if the mother was married to a different person at the child’s birth, this isn’t an option.

2. By legitimation

If a child is born to an unwed mother who then marries the child’s father, paternity can be established. Note, however, that an unmarried father’s name is not included on the birth certificate unless the parents complete an Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida form (DH-743A).

Alternatively, the parents could provide an under-oath written statement before getting married.  

3. By acknowledgment

At any point after a child’s birth, before they reach the age of 18, a child’s parents can establish paternity through acknowledgment. The parents must complete and sign the aforementioned Acknowledgment of Paternity form. The signing must be overseen by a notary public or two witnesses.

The Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics must receive this completed form by mail. If they accept the form, the legal father’s name will be added to the birth certificate of the child. Note, however, that a mother’s legal marriage to another person on the child’s birthday nullifies this option.

4. In court

It’s possible to establish paternity in circuit court. Assuming the court will hear the case, a judge will decide whether paternity can be established after parents file a civil action. They do this by having the mother and alleged father, who must appear in court, present relevant evidence helping to prove or disprove paternity. The court may order genetic testing if it is deemed appropriate. 

Of the options on this list, establishing paternity in court is generally the most expensive and often the most time-consuming process.

5. Through the Florida Department of Revenue

Depending on the specifics of your case, the Florida Department of Revenue may order paternity testing and allow you to skip court. To do this, they will require genetic samples from the mother, alleged father, and child or children for whom you are trying to establish the paternity. 

If the test shows the man in question is indeed the father,  an Administrative Order of Paternity will be provided by the Department of Revenue. They will then have the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics add the father’s name to the relevant birth certificates.

Florida Statute 744.301

Florida Statute 744.301 is relevant to establishing a child’s parentage. This statute discusses what makes a person a natural guardian of a child. It establishes that parents are jointly the natural guardians of their own biological children. However, it also notes that the mother is the primary caregiver of a baby born out of wedlock unless a court order provides information otherwise.

In other words, Florida law does not automatically make a child’s biological father their legal father if the child is born out of wedlock. A biological father in this situation who wants to gain parental rights over a child must successfully file a petition to determine paternity

Common issues with establishing paternity

Some common paternity issues should be acknowledged. The first is that a father’s name on a birth certificate doesn’t automatically establish paternity

A father’s name could potentially be on a birth certificate without the father having any parental rights. It’s important to firmly establish paternity in one of the five ways noted earlier if you wish to be considered a legal father.

Another issue that could complicate paternity is if a mother births a child while married, but the child’s biological father isn’t the woman’s spouse. The legal assumption is generally that a baby’s legal father is the woman’s spouse. 

In this case, the methods for establishing a child’s true paternity are somewhat limited. Usually, paternity will need to be established in court or through the Florida Department of Revenue, likely with genetic testing.


Paternity. Florida Department of Revenue.
Florida Statute 744.301. State of Florida.
Instructions for Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.983(a), Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief (11/15). Florida Courts.
Acknowledgment of Paternity. Florida Courts.
2023 Florida Statutes. Florida Courts.
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