L.G. v. Department of Children and Families, 227 So.3d 653 (2017)
L.G. was never married to the mother, but he acknowledged paternity on the child’s
birth certificate. During the dependency proceedings, L.G. petitioned to disestablish
paternity based on newly discovered evidence-namely, a recent DNA test showing that
he was not the biological father of the child.
The trial court denied the petition, ruling that it could not disestablish paternity unless
another putative father was willing to “step in” and establish paternity. The trial court’s
ruling was based upon Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services v. Privette,
617 So.2d 305 (Fla. 1993), which held that before a blood test can be ordered to
determine paternity in cases where the child is born legitimate, the trial court must find
that the child’s best interests will be better served by the blood test.
Upon the Department’s confession of error, the Fourth DCA reversed noting that after
Privette was decided, section 742.18 of the Florida Statutes was enacted, providing a
mechanism by which a man may disestablish his paternity and avoid further obligation
to support the child, without the requirement that another putative father must be willing
to establish paternity. The DCA held that a Privette “best interests” inquiry applies only
in contested cases where a child faces the threat of being declared illegitimate and the
legal father also faces the threat of losing parental rights which he seeks to maintain.
Neither situation applied in the instant case where the child was not born legitimate, and
the legal father did not seek to maintain his parental rights.