As a father, you fill an important role for your child. You provide them with support and guidance, as well as love and financial resources. While you may want to do everything possible for your child, you may have an uphill battle ahead of you if you have a difficult relationship with the child’s mother.
As an unmarried father, you do not have any automatic parental rights. If you want time-sharing, which is the Florida way of referring to shared physical custody, you will first have to establish paternity. Even if all you want is visitation with your child, you still need to prove you are the father.
What are the ways for an unmarried father in Florida to establish legal paternity?
Right after the birth
Sometimes, the mother of your child may recognize how important you are involvement will be in the child’s health and happiness. She might agree to acknowledge you as the father, and you can take steps to do exactly that right at the hospital after the birth.
You can fill out the Paternity Acknowledgment form and sign it together in front of a notary public. This form helps ensure that the father is on the birth certificate right from the start.
Anytime before the child turns 18
If the mother agrees to work with you but you do not establish paternity at the hospital after the birth, you may need to fill out paperwork later.
The Acknowledgment of Paternity form is a document that you can sign either in front of a notary or two adult witnesses. You then submit the form to the state to have the birth certificate amended to include your name.
When the mother will not cooperate
In the unpleasant but not entirely uncommon scenario where the mother of the child does not want to acknowledge you as the father, you may have to involve the Florida family courts. They can order genetic testing which can verify your paternity within a very small margin of error. Even if the mother does not want to acknowledge you, genetic testing shows you are the father, you will have the right to request time sharing just like a married father would.
Taking the necessary steps to establish paternity will give you access to your child and give your child a stronger sense of their relationship with you.