Pamela Smith, a woman who claims her teenage son is the result of an affair with basketball legend Michael Jordan in 1995, was ordered by a judge to pay $9,704.13 in Jordan’s attorney fees. The craziest part of this story? Despite the woman’s persistence, paternity of the child had already been established prior to Smith bringing her action against Jordan.
Paternity suits determine the legal father of the child. Based on this finding, the father will have legal rights and responsibilities to the child—such as time-sharing and child support. Paternity battles are nothing new. We see everyday people experience them on television shows like Maury and Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court. While it can make for “good TV,” it is important to remember that a child that is involved. Like almost all family law matters, it is easy to get caught up and feel anger or outrage; however, the most important thing to do is for all parties to act in the best interest of the child at the center of it all.
So, what should you do if you find yourself in a position where a child’s paternity is disputed? In Florida, paternity actions can be done either via an administrative process (done by the State Department of Revenue) or a judicial process (done by a circuit court). It is the decision of the person bringing the claim to choose administrative or judicial; however, if the other party does not want to participate in the administrative process, he or she has the option to change the action to circuit court. After being served an administrative notice of proceeding, the other party may file an action in circuit court for a determination of paternity, child support, or both. If the other party does so within 20 days, the action will be moved to circuit court without prejudice. Regardless of a venue, a DNA test must be ordered. Test results can be used in court as evidence for or against paternity. If the test results demonstrate that the man could not be the father, the case will be dismissed.
Regardless of the outcome of paternity actions, we must always keep the best interests of the child top priority. For questions involving paternity, do not hesitate to contact a family law lawyer.