Marriage is not a prerequisite for having a child, but someone’s marital status can influence their parental rights. Although parents of both sexes have the same basic rights, the path toward asserting those rights is often different for men and women.
Many women benefit from having an undeniable biological connection with their children that they can easily establish from the moment of birth. Men in Florida largely depend on their marital status to help establish their paternity. There is a presumption that the husband of a woman who has just given birth is the child’s father. In most cases, the state will automatically include his name on the birth certificate.
Unmarried fathers have to assert their relationship with their child and establish their paternity with the state if they want to make use of their parental rights. How can an unmarried father in Florida establish paternity?
By working with the mother
Plenty of unmarried couples have positive and supportive relationships. The mother of the children may happily acknowledge the father. She can sign a Paternity Acknowledgment form with him at the hospital that will ensure the state includes his name on the birth certificate. If that opportunity has already passed, it is still possible to establish paternity through mutual acknowledgment. The mother and father can voluntarily fill out an Acknowledgment of Paternity form together at any point while the child is still a minor. After submission to state authorities, that document will lead to an amended birth certificate that includes the father’s name.
By asking for court intervention
Sometimes, the mother of a child does not wish to acknowledge the father or believes that there is still some question about the child’s paternity. If the mother will not sign a voluntary acknowledgment, then he may need to ask the Florida family courts for support. Judges can order genetic testing that can verify someone’s paternity with a very small margin of error. Such testing is not invasive and largely reliable. Once the father establishes paternity either through genetic verification or voluntary paperwork, he will then have the right to ask for shared custody or visitation access.
Formally establishing paternity is a very important step for fathers who hope to remain involved with their children and to fully exercise their rights. Seeking legal guidance is often a good way to get started.