As an unmarried father, establishing paternity not only helps your child gain a better sense of identity but also allows both you and that child certain rights you may not have otherwise. The Florida Department of Revenue notes that paternity allows you to seek not only shared visitation rights but custody of a child should you desire it.
If you were not present at your child’s birth or did not establish paternity during the pregnancy, there are several ways you can do so up until he or she turns 18 years of age.
Paternity via marriage
You can establish the paternity of your child if you choose to marry that child’s mother in the future. When you apply for a marriage license, you may acknowledge you are the father. Once you marry the mother, the child you made plus any future children are automatically granted rights, such as any medical care your insurance may provide.
Paternity via genetic testing
If the paternity of a child is in question, you may petition the local court to order a genetic test. This is a useful path if the mother cannot answer the question of paternity in any concrete way. If you have an attorney, he or she can also request this test.
Paternity via acknowledgment
If you know you are undoubtedly the father of the child in question and want to legally acknowledge this fact, you can fill out the Acknowledgement of Paternity form offered by the Florida Department of Health. Both you and the mother must sign this form and have the document notarized.
Acknowledging paternity provides you with support from the legal system when you want to spend time with your child. Without it, you may have little recourse and play a less active role in your child’s life.