Being a father is a full-time job that no one pays you to do or thanks you for performing. You do it because you love your child and you understand that you have a legal responsibility to them. Showing up for your kid can be more difficult when you don’t have a legal relationship with the mother.
Married fathers have an automatic presumption of paternity for their wives’ children. They can request shared custody or visitation right away if they separate from the mother or she files for divorce. Unmarried fathers theoretically have rights under Florida law, but they will have to take an extra step if they hope to request shared custody or visitation with their child.
Unmarried fathers have to formally establish paternity
You have to establish paternity to request custody or visitation proceedings in the Florida family courts. Sometimes, you will have already taken this step. If you and the mother signed paperwork together at the hospital when your child was born and your name is on the birth certificate, then you have already established paternity.
If your name is not on the birth certificate, you can have your name added. If the mother cooperates with you, the two of you can execute an Acknowledgment of Paternity. Once the state adds your name to the birth certificate, you will be in a position to ask for time-sharing rights.
If the mother will not cooperate with you or acknowledge you, then you may have to ask the family courts to intervene. Court-ordered genetic testing can quickly establish you as the father of the child with a minuscule margin of error.
A father’s presence is invaluable to his children
Although you may have to go to court and wait several months depending on your situation, establishing paternity will benefit you and your child. You can fill a role in their life that no one else can, and asserting your right to time-sharing is one of the best ways for you to be a positive influence on your child.
Even if you have not played an active role previously, when you are ready to step up, you can contribute something meaningful to your child’s daily life. Asking for parenting time can seem intimidating for an unmarried dad, but it is a step worth taking.