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The Flynn v. McCraney Ruling: When Florida Courts do Not Award Legal Paternity to the Biological Father

Except where adoption is involved, many people think of genetic relationships as the most important thing that links parents and children. In Florida’s family law system, that is not always the case. It is entirely possible for a man to claim paternity and to be named as the child’s legal father without DNA testing. If a man agrees to be named as the father on a child’s birth certificate, most of the time, no one questions it. In fact, Florida courts usually only order DNA paternity tests when no legal father has been named, and the court needs to decide who is responsible for paying child support for a child whose mother has demonstrated financial need.  The rest of the time, biology is not the sole determining factor. The recent Flynn v. McCraney decision is just one example of when a Florida court ruled not to award legal paternity to the child’s biological father.

The Mother’s Husband is the Child’s Father by Default

If the mother is married at the time of the child’s birth, her husband becomes the legal father by default. Why is this the case in an age when DNA paternity testing is so accurate and so inexpensive? Part of the reason goes back to the days before DNA testing was available. Before the 1990s, alleging that the father of a married woman’s child was someone other than her husband required nothing short of character assassination, and it was almost impossible to prove.  Even now that matters of biological paternity are so easy to determine through DNA testing, Florida courts still prefer to keep families intact. If a child has been raised by two parents since birth, the courts favor arrangements where those two adults remain the primary caregivers until the child reaches adulthood. (This is the logic behind the trend toward timesharing in Florida’s parenting plans.)

The Flynn v. McCraney Case, in Which a Biological Father Sued for Paternity and Lost

The Flynn v. McCraney and McCraney case involves a man (Flynn) who fathered a child by a woman (Mrs. McCraney) who was married to another man (Mr. McCraney). When the child was born, the courts named Mr. McCraney as the legal father. Flynn sued for paternity, but the court ruled that, if a child is born to an intact marriage, even proof of another man’s biological paternity cannot take away the mother’s husband’s legal paternity. This ruling followed the precedent of the Slowinski v. Sweeney case from several years earlier, which had the same outcome. In that case, the mother had died, and thus her husband was the only parent who had had a relationship with the child throughout the child’s entire life.

Alan Burton Defends the Legal Rights of Parents and Children

Florida family courts are committed to basing their decisions on the best interests of the child. If you think that you and your child have a legal right to a better arrangement, contact Alan Burton in Boca Raton, Florida.

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