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"Paternity" refers to the legal establishment of who is the father of a child. Paternity issues often involve child support, but they can also be important in relation to adoption, inheritance, custody and visitation, health care, and other issues.

Custody / Visitation / Timesharing

The term "custody" is no longer used when referring to determining when each parent shares times with their child. The Court uses the terms timesharing. When parents are no longer together, they can decide how they share time with the child and come up with an agreed parenting plan, however if the parties cannot agree, the Court must make the decision and puts the best interest of the child first. There are several factors the Court utilizes to make that determination.

DNA Testing and Paternity

In a DNA test, the scientist examines the genetic material that the child inherited from its biological parents. The Courts may require to take a DNA text in order to establish your relationship with the Minor Child(ren). DNA testing is generally done only when one party contests the paternity allegations. Should this not be the case, then the court will not order the test to be done.

Establishing Paternity

If there is no argument between the parties then paternity can be established voluntarily. Once paternity is established, the father may be ordered to pay child support for his child. Paternity issues, like most family law issues, can have far-reaching implications, both financially and emotionally. When faced with these issues our experienced lawyer here at JP Law Group, P.A. are prepare to help in every way.

Parenting plan

Once Paternity is established, under Florida law, a Parenting Plan specifically created to meet the needs of the individual child needs to be created and approved by the court . The parents need to cooperate to arrive at an agreement about how the child(ren) will be raised and how each parent will participate in the child’s upbringing. The Plan needs to speak to custody and time-sharing agreements, school and extracurricular activities, medical and healthcare matters, and any other circumstances relevant to the particular child. Parenting Plans are formulated to lay out expectations and avoid conflicts. Although a plan cannot anticipate every possible occurrence, it will provide a road map that can make the process of sharing responsibility for a child much easier.

If the parents fail to agree on a Parenting Plan or come up with a plan that the court will not approve, then the court will step in and establish the Parenting Plan, eliminating a lot of control from the hands of the parents. Therefore, it is in the best interests of both the parents and the child to come up an acceptable Plan.

The Parenting Plan, the court will consider the following:

Each parent’s ability to maintain a close emotional relationship with the child;

Timesharing schedule that is suitable for the child(ren)

Child Support considiration

Each parent’s ability to ascertain the specific needs of the child and take the appropriate actions to address those needs;

The geographic location of each of the parents in relation to the child;

Each parent’s ability to provide a stable residence and home life for the child;

The emotional, mental, and physical health of each of the parents;

Any evidence of abuse, neglect, or abandonment of the child;

The educational and developmental needs of the child; and

Any other facts or circumstances that impact the wellbeing of the child.

The Parenting Plan is the document that governs the custodial agreement between the parents. Below is certain information provided by Florida Statues regarding Paternity Actions.

Florida Child Custody Determination

There are other issues that need to be considered as a Florida court will step in if the parents fail to decide upon a Parenting Plan or if the court believes that the Plan is not in the best interest of the child. Florida courts determine child custody issues under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Custody cases used to presume the best interest of the child meant that the mother would get custody. This has changed over time. Under current law, a Florida judge will thoroughly consider each of the facts of the particular case and then give equal consideration to both the father and mother. Under normal circumstances, parental responsibility will be shared equally by each of the parents, regardless of who has physical custody of the child. This time-sharing determination is set forth in the Parenting Plan. A judge does have discretion to alter this if he or she believes that shared parental responsibility would be harmful to the child.

The best interest of the child is the overriding focus of the court’s scrutiny. If the judge decides that granting one parent sole parental custody, with or without an order permitting visitation of the other parent, is what will fulfill the best interest of the child then that will be the court’s order. When making a determination of what will be in the best interest of the child, the court will evaluate:

Which parent will facilitate an environment in which the child has frequent ongoing contact with the nonresidential parent;

Which parent will avoid making the child aware of any ongoing legal action involving this other parent;

The relationship of the child with each child, including the strength of the emotional connection, as well as the overt signs of love and affection;

The ability and willingness of each parent to provide the basic necessities to the

child, including food, clothes, medical care, and other essential material requirements;

The developmental needs of the child and the ability of each parent to satisfy those needs;

The schooling and extracurricular needs of the child and the ability of each parent to satisfy those requirements;

The period of time in which the child has been is a particular environment, the stability of that residence, and the benefits of maintaining that circumstance;

The ability of each parent to maintain a home environment which is free of any substance abuse;

The nature of the custodial residence, including being set up to maintain an

existing family environment. This can mean keeping a child with relatives in addition to a parent or siblings, including grandparents;

The moral fitness of each of the parents;

The physical and mental health of each of the parents;

The available records of the child, including school, medical, community

involvement, and any home evaluations;

The expressed preference of the child, but only if the judge believes that the child

possesses sufficient awareness of the situation, emotional intelligence, and understanding to make a reasoned determination about which parent he or she would want to have custody;

Any evidence that one of the parents knowingly provided false information to the

court in a domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect legal action;

Any evidence of child abuse by either parent, or anyone who would be in the

child’s life as a result of the parent’s relationship with that person;

Any evidence of domestic violence; and

Any other evidence or circumstances that the court deems relevant.

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