My ex-girlfriend is claiming she’s pregnant with my child though I’m not entirely sure I am the biological father.
We both agreed that it is in the child’s best interest if I terminate any parental rights I might have.
What is the process for legally releasing me from any financial or other obligations?
Until such time that paternity has been established, you have no obligations to support the child. Having said that, if the mother waits to establish paternity and eventually you are determined to be the father, she can file a Petition to Establish Child Support.
In such case, your support obligation can be retroactive up to 24 months from the date of filing the support petition. This means that you would potentially be liable to pay 24 months of child support arrears on top of your existing child support payments.
If the mother files a paternity action, you should ask the court for genetic testing. If you are not the father, your case is over. However, if you are the father, you and the mother may be able to stipulate to terminate your parental rights.
You also have the option of filing the paternity action rather than waiting on the mother to do so. During the paternity action, you can request genetic testing to determine if you are the father. Again, if you are the father, you may be able to stipulate to terminate your parental rights.
To terminate parental rights, the court must find that it is in the “manifest best interest of the child to terminate parental rights” and issue an Order Terminating Parental Rights, thereby relieving you of any obligations.
However, it is difficult to prove to the court that termination is in the child’s best interests. Without the mother’s consent, the court will most likely not relieve a father of financial obligation solely because he is not involved in the child’s life.
While this is understandably a difficult and stressful situation for you right now, you may wish to consider how your feelings may change. After the child is born, you may have a desire to be a part of the child’s life. You may wish to consider having genetic testing done informally prior to any court action.
You should also contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in your area. Cordell & Cordell has attorneys who are licensed and located in Florida who would be happy to discuss your case with you.
Alison K. Morriss is a Staff Attorney in the Tampa, Florida office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Morriss is licensed to practice law in the state of Florida. Ms. Morriss received her Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, History and Business Administration from Stetson University. She continued her education and received her Juris Doctor from Stetson University College of Law, and her Master of Business Administration from Stetson University School of Business.