In Florida, a Biological Father Is Not Always the Legal Father
From a biological perspective, there can be only one father of a child. Just because an individual may be a child’s biological father, however, does not necessarily mean they will be recognized as the legal father under Florida law.
Indeed, Florida has unique laws that clearly state a biological father is not always the legal father.
Biological Father vs. Legal Father in Florida
According to Section 382.013(2)(a) of the 2016 Florida Statutes, a husband’s name shall be entered as the father of the child on a birth certificate when a mother is married at the time of birth. The exception to this practice occurs if paternity has already been determined by a “court of competent jurisdiction”.
Additionally, children who are born “legitimate” in the context of being born into an intact marriage have a right under Florida law to maintain that status as both a factual and a legal matter if exercising that right is in their best interests.
As this right implies, Florida’s reasoning for these protections is based primarily on protecting a child’s best interests and welfare. This entails that transferring legal rights to a biological father will only occur if a Florida court determines doing so is in the best interests of the child. The biological father’s rights are, strictly speaking, fairly irrelevant in the eyes of the court.
In an influential 1997 court case, a biological father who seemed to have had an affair with a married woman of an intact marriage petitioned the court for recognition as the biological and legal father of the child. He made this petition despite the fact he had no relationship with the child, and there was no evidence the married husband was deficient in carrying out fatherly responsibilities. When the biological father sued for paternity, the spouses moved to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the child was born into a legitimated marriage, thereby presuming the child to be legitimate.
The court agreed with the married couple, again underscoring the notion that Florida common law views any action that challenges a child’s legitimacy with “great disfavor”.
The key takeaway, then, is that a legal father need not be the child’s biological father. And, if a non-biological father has already been granted status as the legal father due to an intact marriage, it is unlikely that a biological father could be recognized as the legal father as a result of Florida’s strong presumption of legitimacy. For a biological father to be recognized as a legal father in such a conflict would require a clear finding that overcoming the presumption of legitimacy would be in a child’s best interests.
If you have questions regarding Tampa family law, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]