Pregnancy is typically a joyful time full of exciting expectations and happy planning. Unfortunately, one group that is often excluded from this time of celebration consists of pregnant teenagers, particularly if there are questions surrounding the paternity of the father. According to the most recent statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of teen pregnancies was 273,105 in 2013 for girls between the ages of 15-19. A recent news article in the Ocala Star Banner discusses the work of one organization, the Hands of Mercy Everywhere (HOME), to help one segment of this population, pregnant foster teens. This program allows the girls to continue their education and learn the independent living skills they will need once the baby is born through the structure of a group home. It is generally known that every child is entitled to financial support from both parents, and children of teen mothers are no different. Consequently, the fathers of these unborn babies are responsible for paying for part of the costs of raising the child. However, given the vulnerable living situation of many foster children and their young age, determining who the father is not always straightforward endeavor. The Florida legislature recognized that many teen pregnancies occurred as result of older men taking advantage of young girls and put specific laws into place to address this concern. A review of the law on determining paternity in teen pregnancies and how scientific testing is used in paternity cases will appear below.Determining Paternity When the Mother is Under 16 Years Old
The purpose of the law is to make it easier to prosecute men over the age of 21 who impregnate girls under the age of 16. The provision applies to dependent children with no identified father and is triggered when a teen mother applies for public assistance to help care for her child. The law requires the mother to cooperate with law enforcement by identifying the father and undergoing any tests needed to confirm paternity as a condition of receiving public assistance. In addition to aiding criminal prosecution of the father, establishing paternity will allow the mother to seek child support but would also permit the father to ask for visitation rights.Scientific Testing
Scientific testing to establish paternity can be ordered in two different ways. A court may order the testing of the mother, child or purported father to undergo testing to establish probable paternity at a qualified laboratory on its own motion. Additionally, either party can submit a request for paternity testing to instigate a court order. The request must be accompanied by a sworn statement that either alleges facts demonstrating the likelihood of sexual contact or denies paternity and provides reasons why sexual contact did not occur.
The test results and the laboratory report are submitted to the court and are entered into evidence unless a party objects to the results at least 10 days before the paternity hearing. If the test results show the probability is 95 percent or greater in favor of the paternity of the alleged father, there is a presumption the man is the biological father. This presumption is rebuttable, and if a party disputes the accuracy of the test results, the court may order additional testing at the expense of the requesting party.Hire a Lawyer
Issues surrounding paternity, whether you are looking to establish it or refute it, involve a complicated process that benefits from the counsel of an attorney. Stok Kon + Braverman, with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Boynton Beach, offer representation in a variety of family law matters, including paternity suits. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.