Your rights as a father in Florida are different in certain situations than in others. You have the best legal protections when the mother of your child is also your spouse. Married men are typically automatically included on a child’s birth certificate when the mother gives birth and don’t have to take any extra steps to get time-sharing right when they separate from the mother.
As an unmarried father in Florida, your situation is different. You need to establish paternity to ask for time with your children or if you have any say in what happens in their lives. If you hope to pass on your family name to your child, then establishing paternity could help you make that dream a reality.
Proving your paternity is the first step
Your ex likely gave your child her last name at the time of birth. That is the standard practice for children whose mothers are not married or who do not name a father on the birth certificate. However, your omission from the birth certificate does not permanently compromise your legal rights as a father.
You can potentially ask the courts to change the child’s last name so that they have your surname instead. To achieve that outcome, you will first have to approach your ex to have her sign an acknowledgment that you are the father. If you fill out certain papers, it won’t take much effort to add you to the birth certificate. From there, you can go to court and ask them to change your child’s name.
If the mother does not want to acknowledge you, then you may have no choice but to go to family court and establish paternity through a genetic test. Once you have proven you are the father, you have legal rights. As a biological father, you have a right to parenting time and to legal decision-making authority.
In some cases, the mother may cooperate once you have conclusively established your paternity and family court. Other times, she may fight you at every stage of the process, including when you want to change the child’s last name. Protecting your relationship with your children and giving them the legacy that matters to you, including your family name, will require that you understand how to establish paternity and assert your rights as a parent in Florida.