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If I am unmarried, does my baby's father have automatic paternity rights?

The state of Florida wants every child to have two legal parents, if at all possible. Advantages for the parents can include a say in all sorts of decisions concerning the child, time with the child and financial support. For the child, benefits can include legal matters such inheritances as well as health insurance and knowledge of his or her family medical history. In many cases, such as when the mother is married to the father when the baby is born, establishing paternity is straightforward. However, if you are an unmarried woman at the time of the birth, your baby's father does not automatically have paternity rights. Here's how these rights can be conferred.

Legal order

Establishing paternity through a legal order tends to be used only when other avenues are not possible or have not worked. For example, many women use legal orders when they seek child support from a man who will not say he is the father. A judge may mandate that genetic testing be done, or, if the man said to be the father does not show up to his court appearance, the judge may name him the father by default.

Later legitimacy

You can confer paternity onto your child's father even if your child is no longer a baby. One way this can happen is for the both of you to complete and submit the Acknowledgment of Paternity form (Form DH-432). Another approach is if you later marry the child's father, but if you want his name on the birth certificate, more steps are required. When applying for the marriage license, you can provide a statement or fill out the Affirmation of Common Child(ren) Born in Florida form (Form DH-743A).

Acknowledgment at birth

If possible, it is best to acknowledge paternity when a child is born. This helps set up child support early on in the process and may promote more involvement on the father's part in his child's life. Of course, acknowledgment at birth is not always feasible or realistic. To ensure the father gets on the birth certificate, he should fill out a Paternity Acknowledgment form (Form DH-511) at the hospital with a notary public present.

As you can see, you have a few options when it comes to establishing paternity for your child. As long as he or she has not reached 18 years, setting up paternity is possible, and your child may enjoy expanded options for life insurance, health insurance, veteran's benefits and much more. To investigate options such as a legal order, it can be a good idea to get in touch with an attorney.

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