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Paternity for Unwed Fathers Explained

| Jan 29, 2020 | Firm News

When a child is born to a married woman, the law provides a presumption (assumes) that her husband is the father of the child and he is granted paternity rights automatically. For unwed fathers, however, it is a little more complicated. When you are not married to the child’s mother, you must take certain steps to be legally recognized as your child’s father.

Establishing Paternity at the Time of Birth

The easiest time and place to have your paternity legally recognized is at the hospital at the time of your child’s birth. You and your child’s mother will need to fill out a Paternity Acknowledgement Form in the presence of a notary provided by the hospital. You are assumed to be the legal father as soon as the form is complete and your name will appear on the child’s birth certificate, unless the Acknowledgment is rescinded within 60 days.  After the 60 day recission period, a showing of fraud, duress, or mistake is required under the law to disestablish paternity.

Establishing Paternity Later

It is a bit more complicated to establish paternity later. You have some options. If you and the child’s mother get married, you can apply for paternity while applying for your marriage licence. Otherwise, you will need to acquire a Paternity Acknowledgement Form from the Florida Health Department, the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics in Jacksonville, or one of the Florida Department of Children and Families offices. You and the child’s mother will then have to sign this form in the presence of two witnesses or a notary public. Next, you must mail the completed form to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics. After the form is processed, they will change the birth certificate to add the legal father’s name.

Benefits of Legal Paternity

Many fathers think, “I’m my child’s father by blood, so why does it matter if I’m their father by law?” It matters for so many reasons. Legal paternity gives you recognition as your child’s parent in the eyes of the law and, by extension, many rights you would not have otherwise. With legal paternity, you can:

  • Have a chance to get a court order for visitation and/or custody of your child if you and their mother separate.
  • Add your child to your insurance plan.
  • Make sure your child inherits your assets from you when you pass away.

Without establishing paternity, you risk:

  • Losing access to your child if their mother decides she doesn’t want you to be involved or decides to move.
  • Being unable to visit your child if they are in the hospital.
  • Not being allowed to participate in decision-making regarding your child’s education.

Who can help me legally establish paternity?

There can be many roadblocks to establishing legal paternity. Perhaps your child’s mother won’t sign the form. Whether you’re facing a straightforward situation or a complicated one, it’s important to have an experienced attorney by your side as you navigate this process. The attorneys at Rotella & Hernandez have helped countless fathers establish paternity and access their rights. To get started, give us a call at (786) 571-8472.