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How does paternity fraud happen?

Paternity fraud happens when a man is being held financially responsible for a child that is not biologically his. While this may seem like an impossibility in the Florida family court system, it likely happens more often than you think. One reason for this is the increasing number of births happening involving couples who are not married.

It's a common practice for a man to sign a paternity acknowledgement at the birth if the couple is not married. Usually the man is there because he has been led to believe he is the father of the child, and the mother may not share that there is the possibility that someone else may be the biological father.

Once the paternity acknowledgement is signed, the man has a certain amount of time to contest the paternity through the family courts, but often, the possibility of the child not being his doesn't come up until much later — often when the relationship ends. If the time to contest has expired, the man will likely continue to be held financially responsible for the child until the child turns 18, even if a DNA test proves the child is not his.

While there have been several proposed paternity fraud reforms over the years in Florida and other states, the hurdles these proposal must pass to be put into law make it a significant challenge. If you are an unmarried father, it's important to talk with a family law attorney about your options as soon as possible, even before the child is born. This ensures you are aware of how to request a DNA test to confirm paternity and what may happen if the mother refuses.

Source: Women Against Paternity Fraud, "Current Paternity Fraud Policies," accessed March 25, 2016

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