Some men have immediate legal protection after the birth of their child because of their marital status. In Florida, married men automatically have parental rights, including the right to have their name included on the birth certificate.
Unmarried fathers have the same general rights as other parents, but they have to take extra steps to access and utilize those rights. You will need to establish paternity if you want to enjoy time with your child or have a say in your child’s education or religious practices.
How can you establish paternity as an unmarried father who wants to play an active role in the life of his child?
You can cooperate with the mother
There are benefits for the entire family when the father is on the birth certificate. The mother may have the right to financial support and will enjoy respite during the father’s parenting time. The child has a stronger sense of self and access to family medical history.
If the mother of your child will cooperate with you, you can potentially add your name to the birth certificate right at the hospital after the birth of your child. Fathers who find out about their paternal role after the birth of a child still have the right to add their names to the birth certificate. They can fill out paperwork with the mother of the child and submit it to the state to update the birth certificate.
Provided that the two parents cooperate, a father can add his name to the birth certificate at any point while the child is still a minor.
You can ask the court for support
If your relationship with the mother ended poorly or she has chosen for some reason not to acknowledge you as the father, then you may need to ask the Florida family courts for some assistance. Even if the mother does not want to cooperate with you, the courts can order her to present the child and herself for genetic testing to validate paternity.
Provided that those tests do affirm your status as the child’s father, you can then use your successful paternity proceedings as grounds to request shared custody, including time-sharing and decision-making rights. Establishing paternity can be the first step toward becoming an actively-involved parent with shared custody rights as an unmarried father in Florida.