Relationships with girlfriends don’t always last forever, but fatherhood does. If you had a child outside of marriage and your relationship with their mother is over, there are legal steps you must take to establish yourself as your child’s legal father. Then you will have important rights, such as child custody rights and the right to help make important decisions about how to raise them.
When a married woman gives birth in Florida, the law presumes that her husband is the father. But when the mother is not married, paternity must be established. There are two ways to do this: voluntarily or by court order.
If you and your child’s mother agree that you are the father, you both can sign a document called a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.” It takes effect 60 days after you sign it. After that, you will be your child’s father in the eyes of the law.
In many cases, the mother is not sure who her child’s biological father is, or the man she believes is the father denies paternity. When the parties don’t agree about paternity, either the mother or a man who believes he is the biological father can file a paternity action in court. The Florida Department of Child Support Services can also file. Once the court receives the petition, it will order a genetic test for the mother, child and potential father. If the testing shows that the man is the biological father, the judge will establish paternity.
You want to stay in your child’s life even though you have broken up with their mother. Establishing paternity for yourself means that you will have parental rights that your ex cannot violate, or else she can get in trouble with the court.