Paternity and Custody Considerations for the Unmarried Dad
Statistics indicate that by 2016, half of all new births will occur between unwed partners. Many of these instances will involve cohabitating couples who, even though unmarried, plan to raise their children together. However, a significant percentage will involve parents who are not in a monogamous relationship with one another and have no intentions of ever being in one. If this describes your situation, it is important that you understand your rights as a parent and what actions may become necessary to promote your child’s best interests are ensure your place in his or her life.
What You Need to Know
One of your first responsibilities following the birth of your baby is to establish paternity, which is accomplished in several ways:
- – If you are confident that you are the biological father of the child, you and the mother can sign a voluntary paternity acknowledgment. This sworn affidavit creates a rebuttable presumption that you are the father of the baby and generally negates the need for a determination by the courts. Both parties can rescind it for any reason within 60 days of execution. However, after that time, a court determination may prove necessary if you do not want to claim paternity.
- – If you are denied an opportunity to establish paternity, but you want custody or visitation with the child, you can commence a case in the domestic relations court. Florida law gives the judge authority to order paternity testing of the child and potential father. Once paternity is established, you can then file for custody or scheduled visitations. You can also request the addition of your name to the birth certificate and for the child to carry your last name. It is important to note that, once paternity is established, the court can also order child support and any collection attempts that the judge seems appropriate.
- – If you and the mother are not in agreement about paternity, but you want to reserve your rights as the biological father, you can place your name with the Putative Father Registry. This service notifies you if there is ever a proceeding filed to terminate parental rights.
- – For example, you did not sign a paternity acknowledgement and believed that the mother would raise the baby on her own. A few months later, the mother places the baby up for adoption and the adoptive parents want to terminate all parental rights in order to finalize the adoption proceedings. Under the registry, the state would notify you of the attempt to terminate parental rights, so you can be heard on the issue. Fathers can register at any time prior to the birth of the child, but not once a termination of rights proceeding commences.
Establishing paternity and asserting your rights as a father can prove challenging. An experienced attorney can help you through the process and assist you in securing your rights.
If you want to establish paternity in the state of Florida, the attorneys of Vanessa L. Prieto, LLC can help you through the legal process. Located in Fort Lauderdale, our office serves Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. Contact our office to learn how we can be of assistance.