If you are the alleged father of a child not married to the mother, establishing paternity does not always require you to go to court. On the contrary, if you and the child’s mother are in agreement, it is possible for you to establish legal paternity at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth or any time thereafter until the child turns 18. In either case, it is a simple matter of filling out a form.

However, if there is a question as to a child’s paternity, it can eventually go to court for a judge to decide. According to the Florida Department of Revenue, the court starts the process by serving both you and the child’s mother with court orders to appear at a hearing. It is important for you to appear in court for the hearing at the appointed time. This is especially true if you contest the claim that you are the child’s father. If you fail to attend the hearing, the judge may rule that you are the father by default.

To aid in the determination, the court may order genetic testing at your expense. This requires samples of DNA for testing from you (the alleged father), the child and the child’s mother. You and the child’s mother may also have to pay any court fees associated with the hearing.

You and the child’s mother may come to an agreement regarding legal paternity before the scheduled hearing date. If this is the case, you can both sign a consent order. The court will then adopt this as the final order in lieu of a hearing.