When people talk about custody and visitation arrangements, they almost always do so in the context of a marriage. However, you don’t have to be married to the mother of your children to want to play a role in their lives.

As an unmarried father living in Florida, you have certain rights. However, unless the mother of your child recognizes you as the father, you will likely need to take some steps to assert those rights.

Asserting your rights as a father depends on establishing paternity

In order to request parenting time, share custody or visitation with your child, you first have to establish that you are, in fact, the father. If the mother is on the birth certificate or if she agrees to execute The Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida, you can easily and quickly establish your genetic relationship with your child.

However, in some cases, you may have to go to court and request genetic testing if the mother doesn’t want to acknowledge you as the father. Once you have established paternity, you can then look into your parental rights.

Shared custody is usually what’s best for the kids

When the courts look at parenting time in custody, the primary concern they have is what will be best for the kids. Even if the mother has a longer-established relationship with the children, you can play a very important role in their lives. Most fathers have the right to request shared custody and plenty of parenting time, not just visitation.

The more equal your parenting time is, the less likely it becomes that you will have to pay child support. Still, it’s important to recognize that child support is an important part of your parental duties and paying it can show the courts and the mother of your child how serious you are about playing a significant role in their life.