Married fathers have it easy when it comes to paternity. They don’t have to take any special steps at all because the state of Florida just assumes they are the father. However, regardless of how long you have been with the mother of your child, paternity isn’t that simple if you are not married.
Unmarried fathers have to formally establish paternity in order to have parental rights under Florida law. Some people think that the only way to establish paternity involves going to court and performing a genetic test on the child.
Is a DNA test really the only way to establish paternity as an unmarried father in Florida?
You don’t have to go to court if the mother cooperates with you
Paternity litigation is only necessary when the mother of your child doesn’t want to acknowledge you. Many fathers will have the option of working with the mother to help them establish paternity.
Even if you have already ended your relationship, she will benefit from acknowledging you just like you will benefit from establishing paternity. She can then expect you to step up for visitation or shared custody. If there is an uneven split parenting time, she could also receive child support, which could improve the standard of living for your child.
If the mother cooperates right at the time of birth, you can fill out the Paternity Acknowledgment form to have your name added to the birth certificate. Any time until your child turns 18, in fact, you can fill out and submit an Acknowledgment of Paternity. You then send the form to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics to update the birth certificate with your name.
Paternity is as valuable for your child as it is for you
Establishing paternity doesn’t just give you legal rights to your child and responsibilities to them. It also helps solidify your child’s place in the world and gives them a better understanding of their family roots.
Having your name on the birth certificate will help your child feel like they understand where they come from and can help your child track down extended family or learn more about family medical history as they grow older and want to start their own family.
Choosing to step up as a father and establish paternity may require extra effort on your part, but you will be glad that you did so for the rest of your life.