2023 Florida Statutes< Back to Statute Search
Title V JUDICIAL BRANCH
Chapter 39 PROCEEDINGS RELATING TO CHILDREN
SECTION 503Identity or location of parent unknown; special procedures.
39.503 Identity or location of parent unknown; special procedures.—
(1) If the identity or location of a parent is unknown and a petition for dependency or shelter is filed, the court shall conduct under oath the following inquiry of the parent or legal custodian who is available, or, if no parent or legal custodian is available, of any relative or custodian of the child who is present at the hearing and likely to have any of the following information:
(a) Whether the mother of the child was married at the probable time of conception of the child or at the time of birth of the child.
(b) Whether the mother was cohabiting with a male at the probable time of conception of the child.
(c) Whether the mother has received payments or promises of support with respect to the child or because of her pregnancy from a man who claims to be the father.
(d) Whether the mother has named any man as the father on the birth certificate of the child or in connection with applying for or receiving public assistance.
(e) Whether any man has acknowledged or claimed paternity of the child in a jurisdiction in which the mother resided at the time of or since conception of the child, or in which the child has resided or resides.
(f) Whether a man is named on the birth certificate of the child pursuant to s. 382.013(2).
(g) Whether a man has been determined by a court order to be the father of the child.
(h) Whether a man has been determined to be the father of the child by the Department of Revenue as provided in s. 409.256.
(2) The information required in subsection (1) may be supplied to the court or the department in the form of a sworn affidavit by a person having personal knowledge of the facts.
(3) If the inquiry under subsection (1) identifies any person as a parent or prospective parent, the court shall require notice of the hearing to be provided to that person.
(4) If the inquiry under subsection (1) fails to identify any person as a parent or prospective parent, the court shall so find and may proceed without further notice.
(5) If the inquiry under subsection (1) identifies a parent or prospective parent, and that person’s location is unknown, the court shall direct the petitioner to conduct a diligent search for that person before scheduling a disposition hearing regarding the dependency of the child unless the court finds that the best interest of the child requires proceeding without notice to the person whose location is unknown.
(6) The diligent search required by subsection (5) must include, at a minimum, inquiries of all relatives of the parent or prospective parent made known to the petitioner, inquiries of all offices of program areas of the department likely to have information about the parent or prospective parent, inquiries of other state and federal agencies likely to have information about the parent or prospective parent, inquiries of appropriate utility and postal providers, a thorough search of at least one electronic database specifically designed for locating persons, a search of the Florida Putative Father Registry, and inquiries of appropriate law enforcement agencies. Pursuant to s. 453 of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. s. 653(c)(4), the department, as the state agency administering Titles IV-B and IV-E of the act, shall be provided access to the federal and state parent locator service for diligent search activities.
(7) Any agency contacted by a petitioner with a request for information pursuant to subsection (6) shall release the requested information to the petitioner without the necessity of a subpoena or court order.
(8) If the inquiry and diligent search identifies a prospective parent, that person must be given the opportunity to become a party to the proceedings by completing a sworn affidavit of parenthood and filing it with the court or the department. A prospective parent who files a sworn affidavit of parenthood while the child is a dependent child but no later than at the time of or before the adjudicatory hearing in any termination of parental rights proceeding for the child shall be considered a parent for all purposes under this section unless the other parent contests the determination of parenthood. If the known parent contests the recognition of the prospective parent as a parent, the prospective parent may not be recognized as a parent until proceedings to determine maternity or paternity under chapter 742 have been concluded. However, the prospective parent shall continue to receive notice of hearings as a participant pending results of the chapter 742 proceedings to determine maternity or paternity.
(9) If the diligent search under subsection (5) fails to identify and locate a parent or prospective parent, the court shall so find and may proceed without further notice.
History.—s. 10, ch. 94-164; s. 5, ch. 97-276; s. 64, ch. 98-403; s. 18, ch. 99-2; s. 27, ch. 99-193; s. 21, ch. 2000-139; s. 10, ch. 2008-245; s. 8, ch. 2017-151.
Note.—Former s. 39.4051.