custody rights - establishing paternity

Custody Rights for the Unwed Father

How an unwed Father gets custody rights over his child born out of wedlock? Part 1 of 3.

In Florida, the mother automatically has legal custody of a child born out of wedlock. Naming the father on the birth certificate does not grant them any custody rights in the State of Florida. So, where does that leave the unwed father?

Unfortunately, this often leaves a father with no rights to the child and a mother taking full advantage of the situation. What needs to be done to establish custody rights over your child in this situation?

Establish Paternity – Step 1 to gaining custody rights as an unwed father

The first step is to establish paternity. You can establish paternity in a few different ways.

  • Marraige – In Florida, if the woman is married when she gives birth then her husband is legally presumed to be the father of her child.
  • Acknowledgment of Paternity – Unmarried parents can agree to fill out and sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity.
  • Court OrderPetition to Establish Paternity – The father can file a Petition to Establish Paternity to begin a family law court case. Often, the mother ends up agreeing the Petitioner is the father prior to or at the court hearing. When this happens, the court typically orders the establishment of paternity. However, if the parents do not agree to the child’s paternity, then the judge will likely order genetic testing.
  • Administrative order based on genetic testing – When required, the family must provide genetic samples from the mother, the alleged father, and the child to a local Child Support Office for testing.
  • Legitimation – If the parents are unmarried when thier child is born then later get married, the husband becomes the legal father of thier child. In this case, the couple would then complete an Affirmation of Common Children Born in Florida, or sign a written statement under oath when they apply for their marriage license.

After choosing your method, you will need to fill out the appropriate forms and you may need to serve them through a process server or the local sheriff’s office, depending on the method you choose. Each case of gaining custody rights as an unwed father comes with many different circumstances and needs. For this reason, it is highly encouraged that you hire a family law attorney to be sure you not only have custody rights of your child but that you also have a fair and equitable parenting time plan in the best interest of your child(ren).

***These forms are provided by the Florida Courts and are complete with detailed instructions for the pro se litigant. I am NOT advising you to file these forms because I do not know your case details. It is important that you contact an attorney to be sure you are filing the proper forms for your particular case facts. If you feel like you can handle your child custody case, please do your research first and be sure to follow the Florida court’s directions and the directions provided by your county.***

Part 2 – Custody Rights for the Unwed Father – Parenting Plan

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