Paternity Cases: Unmarried Fathers
In Florida, the Mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child. The biological father’s paternity and the rights that go with it, by contrast, must first be legally established. Being named on the child’s birth certificate is not sufficient, by itself, to establish paternity.
Biological Fathers may establish their rights by filing an action for Paternity. This does not necessarily mean that a Paternity Test must be performed, but instead means that the Father must petition the court to establish that he is the Father before he is entitled to the rights and responsibilities of a parent. Once his Paternity is legally established, he will be able to seek a time sharing schedule (visitation) and exercise certain rights with regard to the child. Once Paternity is legally established a biological Father stands on equal legal ground with the Mother.
Putative Father Registry
Prior to the formal establishment of Paternity, a man who believes he is the biological Father of a child born out of wedlock should file a Notice with the Florida Putative Father Registry. Filing with this registry acts as a Notice to all persons that there is a claim of paternity and any action filed concerning the child, such as a Petition to Adopt the child, will have to be provided to the person claiming Paternity.
If an unmarried man believes he is the father of a child but fails to register with the Putative Father Registry, he may forever lose his right to the child if the Mother places the child for adoption. In such cases, the Father may not have the right to set aside the adoption because of his failure to register. Contested “Parental Authority” and Parenting Plan cases require expert testimony and several days of trial.