Couples have children at different moments in their lives, with many bundles of joy coming before formal nuptials. Never assume that visitation or child custody rights are awarded to both parents automatically after a child’s birth. In Florida, the law only automatically recognizes a child’s mother as the legal custodian if the child is born before the parents are married. Even when a father’s name is on a child’s birth certificate, he is not automatically awarded a father’s legal rights. Unwed fathers might find it hard to deal with the fact that they are not granted similar rights as the child’s mother upon a child’s birth, especially if they are unaware of how they can obtain those rights in case of a separation.
In Florida, a mother has the right to allow or deny the father of a child visitation rights if the two are not married. Denying a father his visitation rights is common when a couple is on the verge of separation. However, even in a breakup, a court can grant visitation rights to an unwed father if they can establish paternity.
Read on to learn how to acquire your legal rights as an unwed father in Florida if you and your child’s mother are in the process of separation.
The First Step is to Establish Paternity
Unlike married fathers, unmarried fathers in Florida are not automatically considered legal parents of their children when their children are born. Unwed fathers need to establish paternity to obtain legal rights to their children in the event of a separation.
The first legal way of establishing paternity is through a voluntary acknowledgment. Both parents need to sign and file an acknowledgment of paternity. However, in case of a dispute, the father can use the second method of establishing paternity.
As an unmarried father, you can file a Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief if trying to voluntarily acknowledge paternity does not work out. When you fill the form, you ask the court to establish paternity and a time-sharing schedule and child support.
To establish paternity, the court might order you to undergo a DNA test to prove that you are the child’s biological father. After the court proves that you are the child’s biological father, you can continue to pursue custody and visitation rights.
What Happens After Establishing Paternity?
After you establish paternity, the court creates a time-sharing and custody plan. The court also calculates child support. Once paternity is established, unmarried couples’ cases usually proceed in the same way as formerly married couples’ cases. Both parents will present their plans for the child, and the court will rule based on the child’s best interest after considering several factors.
Are You an Unmarried Father Separating From Your Child’s Mother?
The family attorneys at Tampa Bay Legal Center, P.A., understand the frustration that comes with trying to obtain your legal rights as a father, especially if you and the mother of your child were never married. Save yourself from too much frustration by engaging the services of our professional attorneys. Contact us through our online contact form.