Providing for your child is hard enough, but providing for your child as a single mother is especially difficult.
Even if you were never married to the father of your child and his name is not present on your child’s birth certificate, there is a way to hold him responsible and get him to provide for his son or daughter: child support.
Of course, child support only comes into play if he is legally found to be the father. That means establishing paternity. Do this and he may be legally required to pay child support so that your child receives the care he or she needs.
How to Establish Paternity in Florida
Establishing paternity is not always straightforward, but is usually beneficial to the child in question. In Florida, paternity can be established through one of five ways:
- Acknowledgement of paternity
- Administrative order (based on DNA testing)
- Court order
Some of these methods do not even involve stepping into a courtroom. A child’s father may even voluntarily make efforts to establish paternity. In this case, you and he can file the “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.” Often, this occurs when the father and mother end up getting married after the birth of a child, but this form can be filed regardless of your marital situation.
If the father of your child is not present at the time of the child’s birth or currently in the child’s life, you still have options under Florida law.
Anyone can file to establish paternity, including a child’s legal representative or the Florida Department of Child Support Services. If there is no Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, the case may be brought to family court, where a judge may ask for a DNA test of the mother, child, and possible father.
In the same hearing that paternity is established, the judge may mandate the father to pay a certain amount of money in child support payments each month.
Why Establishing Paternity Is a Good Thing
There are many benefits to establishing paternity beyond being able to get child support to help raise your child. He or she will be able to learn more about who they are and their heritage. Your child will also have access to knowledge about health and medical conditions that are common in his or her father’s family.
There are also financial benefits besides child support: your child will be able to be added to the father’s medical insurance and any Social Security benefits that exist. And later in life, they may also be able to receive an inheritance from their father.
How to File for Child Support
If the Florida Department of Child Support Services or other government agencies establish paternity, they can then establish child support payments. You may also request child support payments separately.
You and the child’s father have to attend a hearing in which a judge looks at your financial situation and makes a decision that will best benefit the child in question. To get a sense for the amount of child support you may receive, child support calculators and other resources are available online. They predict child support payments based on the following factors:
- Monthly income of each parent
- Number of children who will benefit from child support payments
- Cost of childcare currently paid by each parent
- Cost of healthcare and insurance payments made by each parent
Child support is determined based on a few different financial factors, but the final decision and payment amount is ultimately left up to the judge or other authority presiding over your case.
Child support rulings are typically made separately from decisions about parenting time and child custody. Child support cases only affect your child’s father’s financial contribution to your child’s life.
Modifying and Enforcing Child Support Payments
The child support ruling is not set in stone. It can be reviewed and modified at the request of either parent. However, this may not happen immediately. A parent’s financial situation must have experienced at least a 10% difference for a support order to change. This typically takes around three years after the initial decision is made.
Maybe you are filing for child support because your child’s father does not want to be a part of your child’s life. By obtaining child support through court proceedings, the child’s father is legally required to make these payments.
If someone does not make the required child support payments in Florida, the state may take one of the following actions:
- Suspending the father’s licenses
- Denying the father’s passport application
- Issuing an income deduction order
- Intercepting the father’s money through tax refunds, lottery winnings, benefits, settlements, and so on
- Freezing the father’s financial accounts
- Arresting and charging the father with contempt of court
If you are struggling to support your child due to the absence or neglect of the child’s father, you may want to establish paternity or file for child support. An affordable, experienced Florida family lawyer can help you get the help you need. Give us a call today for a free review of your case.