What To Do If Paternity Fraud Happens To You

Having a child is generally one of the most momentous and exciting occasions in your life, but for some fathers, it can be an ongoing nightmare.

 Paternity fraud is a devastating problem in Florida family courts. Thousands of fathers and children are affected by paternity fraud and end up as innocent victims. How does this happen and, if you are a victim, what can you do to fight back?

 We will answer those questions and more as we break down the issue of paternity and paternity fraud here in Florida.

 What Is Legal Paternity in Florida?

 When a child is born, we automatically know who the mother is, but determining the father can be a bit trickier.

 

There are four main legal classifications of fathers:

 Acknowledged father. An acknowledged father is the biological father of a child – who admits he is the father – born to unmarried parents.

 Presumed father. There are a few ways a father can be presumed:

  • He was married to the mother when the child was born or conceived.

  • He tried to marry the mother when the child was born or conceived.

  • He married the mother after the child was born and agreed to sign the birth certificate or paternity affidavit.

  • He has welcomed the child in his home and admits the child is his.

Equitable father. A father who has a close relationship to a child that is encouraged by the biological parents but he is not a biological or adoptive father.

 Unwed father. A father who gets a woman pregnant but does not marry her. If this father wants parental rights, he will have to establish his paternity or another man could end up becoming the presumed father.

 

How Does Paternity Fraud Happen?

 Paternity fraud is also known as misattributed paternity or paternal discrepancy. This happens when a man is misidentified as the biological father of a child.

 Sometimes, this misidentification is intentional and the mother knows that the man is not the biological father. Other times, the misidentification is unintentional and the mother believes a man is the biological father but is not certain.

 There are a number of potential ways this situation can arise.

 When a married couple has a baby, the husband is the presumed father. If the husband signs the birth certificate at the hospital, he then establishes his paternity to that child – regardless of whether he is actually the biological father or not.

 If an unmarried mother has a baby, she could ask a man to sign the birth certificate or affidavit of paternity even if the man is not the biological father of the child.

 In another situation, an unmarried mother might have to apply for state aid, which often requires her to list the child’s father. The mother could potentially name anyone as the child’s father because she doesn’t have to provide proof that the listed father is the biological father.

 

What Is the Impact of Paternity Fraud?

 Once paternity is established, the father is then responsible for child support.

 This poses a problem, however, if the man believes he is the biological father of a child and later discovers that he’s not.

 Let’s take the example above of a married couple who had a child. In this situation, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child because he is married to the mother and signs the birth certificate.

 Some time later, the couple gets divorced and the husband finds out his wife had been having an affair and the child might not actually be his. After a DNA test reveals he is not the child’s biological father, the father is obviously upset, but what are his options?

 If the father takes the case to court, one of two things will happen: the father will either have to continue paying child support or the court will allow him to stop paying child support.

 Why would the father have to continue paying child support?

 Well, Florida courts look out for the best interest of the child. If the father has supported the child for a long time and has acted like the child’s father, then, biological or not, the man is considered to be the child’s father.

 While this might seem shocking – a man having to pay for a child who isn’t biologically his – it is the reality when it comes to paternity.

 Paternity fraud cases can go undetected for years, so when they come to light, they can be emotionally overwhelming. So how can you fight back?

 Let Our Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney Help You

Reach out to an experienced Florida paternity lawyer for sound advice and effective representation to your unique situation. Call the Law Office of Erin Morse in Orlando at 407-900-7451 to speak with a experienced and passionate Florida Family Law Attorney today.

How is Child Support Determined In Florida ?

Child support is a key element of any separation between couples that have children, as every child has a legal right to receive financial support from both parents. Under the Florida law, child support amounts are determined based on many different factors: income, deductions, childcare expenses, healthcare expenses, other expenses, shared custody and visitation.

 After a calculation of allowable deductions from gross income, the non-custodial parent is required to pay a percentage of their net income as child support. The percentage of income paid for child support is capped at a maximum of 50% for 6 children or more. The following are the income percentages that must be paid with regards to the number of children:
 

•    1 child – 20%

•    2 children – 28%

•    3 children – 32%

•    4 children – 40%

•    5 children – 45%

•    6 children – 50%
 

Though the law is explicit regarding how child support is calculated, there are factors that can make this issue more challenging such as facts that may permit an upward or downward deviation from the guidelines.
 

What Does Child Support Cover?

 Florida law recognizes that children have a right to receive support from both parents, but it does not calculate support based on their combined income. Instead, one parent is named the noncustodial parent, who is required to pay a percentage of net income to the recipient parent. In most cases, the noncustodial parent, so the law assumes the recipient parent is already paying something for the children’s support while exercising physical custody. Child support is designed to maintain children at the standard of living they would have enjoyed had the parents not been separated. Money from child support is meant to help the custodial parent pay for the child’s basic needs, like food and clothes, along with transportation, medical care, activities, education and other standard child-rearing expenses. 

 Florida uses a precise mathematical calculation for basic child support. However, the court has the discretion to order the non-custodial to pay additional amounts for lifestyle expenses, including:
 

•    Private school tuition

•    College savings, tuition and living expenses

•    Enrichment activities (sports, travel teams, the arts, summer camp, etc.)
 

A court also considers the specific children in question. For example, if a child has special needs, the court may order additional payments for associated expenses.
 

How Long Do I Have to Pay Child Support?

If you have been ordered to pay child support for one or more children, you need to know when your obligation ends. Florida law requires you to pay child support at least until your son or daughter turns 18. However, there are numerous circumstances that would lead a court to require you to pay support for a bit longer. If your child is still in high school when he or she turns 18, then you may be required to pay support through graduation or his or her 19th birthday.

 Your child support obligation can go on longer if your child has a mental or physical disability. You may be required to pay support for a child with disabilities through a certain age until a certain educational goal is achieved, and possibly indefinitely.
 

Preparing for College Expenses

 You may be required to continue financially supporting your child when he or she goes to college or enrolls in another type of higher educational or training program. Florida allows for you to be obliged to participate in paying for the educational expenses of a non-minor child. You could be required to help pay for college prep-courses, application fees, tuition, and room and board.

 However, there is no automatic duty to contribute toward your child’s college expenses. The other parent must petition the court to require you to do so. However, the court will look at a variety of factors, including your financial situation and your child’s ability to pay for school him- or herself, before making a decision.

 If you are ordered to contribute toward your adult child’s educational expenses, you only have to do so until he or she turns 23, or if your child has a disability, until he or she turns 25. Also, you may be able to set it up so you pay your child or the educational institution directly. You may not have to pay this support to your child’s other parent.

 
Asking for Child Support to End

 You may be able to ask for your child support duty to end early if your child is emancipated, living with another adult other than his mom or dad, or residing with you. The court may consider a child emancipated before turning 18 if he or she gets married, joins the military, is working full-time, or has moved out and become financially independent.

 If you are aware of these circumstances and believe paying your child’s other parent support should no longer be necessary, contact me today to discuss returning to court for a modification of your child support obligation. If your child has moved in with you full time, you may be able to ask the other parent for support instead.

 

Contact us for Help Today

 As an attorney, I understand the intricacies of how child support is determined. If you have questions about child support or believe your current financial obligation needs to change or end, call us today at (407) 900-7451 or contact us online. Work with a skilled Orlando child support attorney at the Law Office of Erin Morse for the guidance and advice you need on this important matter. 

9 Rules to Make Joint Custody Work

We asked our experts for their best rules for making shared child custody work for you, your ex, and your kids.Coordinating schedules. Divvying up holidays. Shuffling kids between houses. Sharing child custody isn’t always easy, especially when you’re trying to agree with someone you couldn’t stand being married to. The good news: “Studies show that shared-custody situations work best when both parents are cooperative, respectful, agree on shared custody, and manage their emotions,” says JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies to Help Children Thrive Through Divorce. “These qualities make it more likely that parents will help their children adjust to family changes.” We asked our experts for their best rules for making shared child custody work for you, your ex, and your kids.

Rule #1: Speak no evil.

 Expert after expert (most of whom were divorced themselves) repeated this: Don’t speak poorly about your ex. “Badmouthing the ex will be internalized by the child because they are made up of both you and your ex,” says David Pisarra, fathers’ rights attorney at MensFamilyLaw.com and author of A Man’s Guide To Child Custody. “What you say about the ex is what the child will react to, and also think about themselves.” Even though you may be pissed at your ex, your child still loves him or her as a parent. Regardless of your feelings about your ex – justified or not – keep them to yourself.

Rule #2: It’s not about you.

The divorce was about you, but custody is about the kids. “Divorce causes emotional tunnel vision and people get so focused on their own hurts and needs that they lose sight of the goal of creating a good childhood,” Pisarra says. Custody is not about getting exactly what you want, or even demanding equity at any cost. “The hardest part for co-parents is remembering that time with the child is not a prize to be won, but a gift to be cherished,” Pisarra says. Shared custody works best when both parents set aside their ego and realize that what is best for the child is not always what feels good for you as a parent.”

Rule #3: Be realistic about your own schedule and commitments.

“Often during a separation or divorce, parents make unrealistic custody grabs based on fear or insecurity,” says Laura Wasser, a celebrity divorce attorney in Los Angeles and author of the new book It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way. Instead, look at custody as a business arrangement. Remove your emotions from the situation and look at the facts.

Rule #4: Choose a custody arrangement that accommodates your children’s ages, activities, and needs.

When deciding on a custody arrangement, you’ll want to take the following into consideration.

1. Your children’s ages and personalities

2. Your family schedule

3. The career and social commitments of each parent

4. The academic and extracurricular activities to which your children are committed

5. Your child-care arrangements and the distance between the parents’ homes.

Here are three of the most common joint custody arrangements:

1. 2-2-3 plan Monday and Tuesday with Mom, Wednesday and Thursday with Dad, Friday through Sunday with Mom. Then the schedule flips: Monday and Tuesday with Dad, etc.

2. 2-2-5 plan Monday and Tuesday with Mom, Wednesday and Thursday with Dad, and then alternating Friday through Sunday between the parents (one week with Mom, the next with Dad). This schedule often works better when kids are older and have their own schedule of practices, playdates, and obligations.

3. Alternate week plan week 1 with Mom, week 2 with Dad, and so on.Infants usually remain in primary care of the mothers, but toddlers and preschool-age children actually benefit from switching back and forth between households. “Generally, mental health practitioners who specialize in development recommend that for younger children, more frequent transitions actually are beneficial,” Wasser says. A 2-2-3 plan allows the child to see both parents regularly. As they get older, kids can graduate to a 2-2-5 arrangement. Then, if it’s easier, parents can switch to an alternate week plan.”

Rule #5: A bad spouse doesn’t equal a bad parent.

Your ex may have dropped the ball and driven you crazy, but Wasser reminds her clients that “even though he or she may not have been a good spouse, it is still possible for him or her to be a good parent.” In most case, Wasser says, “it is unquestionably best for children to have frequent and continuous contact with both parents.” Your marriage may not have worked, but your parenting can still succeed. “For good or bad, the child wants and needs to feel the love of both of parents,” Pisarra says. How to do that? Put the needs and well-being of your children first. “Remember that when the children are with your ex, they are with the one person in the world who loves and cares about them as much as you,” Wasser says.

Rule #6: Find an agreeable way to communicate

For joint child custody to work, communication is key. For the sake of your children (and your sanity), you need to find a method of communication that works for you and your ex. “These days we have so many tools with which to organize custody,” Wasser says. “There are Google calendars, icalendars, cell phones, texting, and emailing – all which provide parents with the ability to communicate with each other quickly.” Pisarra directs his clients to the website OurFamilyWizard.com, which offers joint calendars, expense logs, common document storage for things like a child’s immunization record or school calendar, and a message board that keeps an accurate and non-modifiable record of your communications that can be admitted in court, if disagreements arise.

Rule #7: Pick your battles.

Let’s be frank. Parenting is hard enough on its own, and co-parenting adds another layer of complexity. Prevent as many as conflicts as possible with your ex by open communication, but when disagreements do arise, consider if the conflict is truly worth fighting over. “Try to be as rational about your positions as possible and remember that if a judge has to decide it, no one will like the decision most likely” Pisarra advises. “Fight only for the things that are worth fighting for. School choices, vacations, and parenting time are worth the fight. Things like food choices, unless there’s a known medical issue like diabetes or food allergies, are not worth the fight.” Save your energy and good will with your ex and the courts for those things that do matter.

Rule #8: Let your child feel heard.

 A child experiences lots of change during a divorce. Allowing the child to express feelings and confusions about the divorce and custody arrangement can help him feel a sense of control in the midst of all that change. “Children need to have input in the process, and depending on how old they are,” Pisarra says. “That can be a simple matter with preteens, or hard to discern with toddlers.” Involving your 5-year-old might mean letting him choose which Lego sets he wants to bring to his dad’s house. Involving preteens and teenagers in creating a custody schedule can help ensure the schedule meshes with the teen’s extracurricular activities. Plus, a child who feels that his input was received is more likely to be agreeable to the schedule. But, says Wasser, “While it is important to listen to your children and hear their feelings, impressions and preferences, the child’s opinion is only one factor that goes into making child-custody decisions.” Let your children feel heard, but also make the best decision for their well being.

Rule #9: From time to time, review the arrangement and adjust as needed.

Just as your kids will grow and change over time, so should your custody arrangement. “Many parents find it helpful to review a custody agreement from time to time to assess how it is working for their children and to make adjustments, particularly as children grow and circumstances change,” says Dr. Pedro-Carroll. You and your ex may change too. Says Wasser: “If you are hoping to eventually get to an equal time share arrangement but have not historically spent as much time parenting, gradual increases are recommended.”