Having a baby is one of the most exciting times for parents, no matter their marital status. For unwed fathers, there may be many questions and uncertainties about their legal standing as a parent.
Securing paternity is an important step in protecting both you and your child. Doing so provides numerous benefits.
What Is Paternity?
Quite simply, paternity is the term for legal fatherhood. When a woman has a baby, the law obviously assumes she is the mother. The father, on the other hand, must overtly claim their legal status. Doing so can be as simple as signing the birth certificate when the baby is born, but it can be more complicated when the child is older.
- Paternity Makes You a Permanent, Legal Father
Being a biological father does not automatically make you a legal father. To have legal rights and responsibilities for your child, you must establish paternity. Once you secure paternity, you will always be the child’s father.
You can lose paternity only if the state declares you a danger to the child. If you are reading this article, it’s doubtful that this applies to you.
- The Right to Visitation
By legally recognizing that you are the parent, you can work out a schedule to spend time with your little one. If the other parent refuses to negotiate a schedule, you can plead to the courts. Courts typically want to give good, involved parents the right to see their children.
- The Right to Request Legal and Physical Custody of Your Child
Paternity could allow you to contribute to important decisions concerning their upbringing, which is called “legal custody.” Such decisions include where they live, go to school, and receive medical treatment.
Paternity can also give you the ability to pursue physical custody, allowing you to have more time with your child and be a more active parent in their life. Physical custody comes in many forms. It could mean having the kids full-time or even having them for one weekend a month.
You should understand: Having paternity does not automatically grant you custody rights. Ultimately, you must work out a custody plan with the other parent or, when necessary, take the matter to court. If you go to court, you must prove that having custody, even partial custody, is best for the child. Having paternity does, however, give you a stronger argument for custody, and the court is generally sympathetic toward legal parents.
Law Offices of Jason K.S. Porter, P.A. can help fathers plead for paternity, custody, and any of their other rights.
- The Right to Include Your Child on Your Benefits
Being a father allows you to provide your child benefits like health insurance. You share social security, inheritance, and veteran's benefits with them.
- The Right to Pay or Receive Child Support
A legal father has the right to pay child support. Child support is often seen as a burden, but this is not always true. Contributing child support helps you meet the child’s financial needs. Both parents pay child support, and the receiving parent cannot spend this money on themselves. Furthermore, they cannot refuse your payments.
If you are the custodial parent, you have the right to receive child support. A parent who refuses to contribute could be held in contempt of court, so you can receive the financial help you need.
- Establishing Paternity Can Create a Deeper Emotional Bond
Some people aren’t too concerned about legal classifications. They know where they stand, and they aren’t worried about the government’s involvement.
For many, however, legal recognition is a big deal. On a psychological level, the idea becomes “real” for them. By confirming your legal fatherhood, both you and your child can find comfort in the fact that your relationship is officially recognized.
How to Establish Paternity in Florida
Establishing paternity in Florida can be done in several ways. Here are a few options:
If you are married to the mother when the child is born, signing the birth certificate automatically makes you the father, even if you aren’t biologically connected to the child.
Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)
An AOP is a legal document both parents sign, recognizing your fatherhood. You can sign this at the child's birth later through the Florida Office of Vital Statistics.
If there is a paternity dispute, either parent can request genetic testing. You can go through a court-approved lab or the Florida Department of Revenue's Child Support Program.
If you cannot establish paternity using the above methods, a judge can issue a court order requiring genetic testing or other evidence to determine paternity.
No matter the case, you should always seek help from an attorney when securing your paternity, especially if there is any pushback from the other parent.
Law Offices of Jason K.S. Porter, P.A. is committed to protecting Florida fathers’ rights and helping good men receive the paternity they deserve. If you need help, reach out to us for a free consultation. You can call our office at (904) 701-0591 or contact us online. **Consultation fees may apply to family law consultations.