When a couple has a child together, unmarried or married, it’s easy to assume that both parents are given parental rights to the child. In reality, if the child’s parents are unmarried, it’s much more complicated than that and ultimately depends on if the child’s father sought paternity.
For married couples, paternity is assumed for the father, and the father will not need to seek paternity of the child. In the mother’s case, the mother is always granted natural parental rights of the child, regardless of marital status.
However, in the case of unmarried parents, the father is not automatically granted parental rights of the child and must seek them out. In Florida, the mother of a child and any man who believes he could be the father of the child both have the legal ability to request the establishment of paternity for the child. For the mother to seek child support, she must establish the father's paternity first.
A father can establish paternity through four different ways:
- At the hospital: Through completing the Paternity Acknowledgment form. For this to be a valid form of paternity establishment, both parents must willingly complete the form together at the hospital, and it must be notarized.
- While the child is a minor and the parents later marry each other: Following the marriage, the father will then be determined to be the child’s legal father; however, the child’s parents must seek affirmation of paternity for the father to be added to the birth certificate. Both parents can complete the Affirmation of Common Chil(ren) Born in Florida form, or they can also complete a written statement under oath when they seek a marriage license from the Clerk of Court.
- While the child is a minor but the parents are still unmarried: Both parents can voluntarily complete the Acknowledgment of Paternity form in the presence of two witnesses or with a notary public.
- If paternity cannot be sought voluntarily by both parties: A judge can establish paternity in a court order. The court order will be completed based on evidence that the man is the child’s father or through genetic testing.
Was Paternity Established?
To answer the question if the father of your child has parental rights, it ultimately depends on if either of you pursued the establishment of paternity for your child. If paternity was established, then the father does have parental rights, but if it was not established, then you are the only parent with rights to your child.
Paternity can be sought until your child turns 18 years old, so if your child is still a minor, there is still an opportunity for paternity to be established.
Do you have questions about your parental rights? Call us today at (954) 626-8071 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation with our attorney.