Whether or not they are married, parents are a vital part of their child’s life. However, if you and your child’s other parent are not married, you may not have the same legal protections afforded to married parents. One way for unmarried parents to protect themselves is by establishing paternity.
Why might you want to establish paternity?
While married parents in Florida have equal custody of their child, unmarried mothers automatically have physical and legal custody of their child. As a result, fathers may not have the opportunity to foster a strong relationship with their child if they are no longer part of the life of their child’s mother. Establishing paternity helps protect their parental rights.
Unmarried mothers can also benefit from establishing paternity. If they and their child’s father are no longer together, paternity can be an essential first step toward getting the support they need to meet their child’s needs.
What are your options for establishing paternity?
In Florida, unmarried parents can establish paternity in one of three ways:
- Establishing paternity at the hospital—If both parents agree about the child’s paternity, the hospital can complete the paperwork establishing paternity on their behalf.
- Establishing paternity through voluntary acknowledgment—Unmarried parents who agree about a child’s paternity can complete an Acknowledgement of Paternity form at any time before their child’s eighteenth birthday.
- Establishing paternity through a court order—If parents do not voluntarily acknowledge a child’s paternity, a judge can issue an order establishing paternity after gathering evidence. This process may involve a court hearing or genetic testing.
After establishing paternity through any of these methods, the father’s name will be added to your child’s birth certificate.
While establishing paternity is an additional step that unmarried parents take, it is also a meaningful way to protect their parental rights and relationship with their child.