Historically, fathers in Florida and elsewhere have had a more difficult time establishing child custody and visitation rights than their female counterparts. The battle often becomes more complicated when the child's parents were not married. In the case of an unmarried father who wishes to maintain regular contact with his children, ABC Action News offers several important points to remember. First, paying child support to the mother does not automatically guarantee visitation rights with the child. In fact, even a spoken agreement between the adults regarding timesharing is usually not a sufficient guarantee. The dynamic between the adults may change over time; therefore, it is best to have a court order to guarantee visitation rights. Additionally, unmarried fathers must prove their paternity in order to have any rights regarding the child. In this situation, the court may determine paternity. A man's signature on the child's birth certificate is not sufficient proof in the event of child custody cases.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, the state of Florida allows proof of paternity through several avenues. One way is written acknowledgement by both mother and father. Alternately, paternity may be established via the Department of Revenue or through a court hearing. In each case, the father must include the time and location of the child's conception and birth, as well as specific information about the mother and himself. An unmarried father may then pursue custody or visitation rights only after his paternity has been established.
One time in which proof of paternity is critical is in the case of potential adoption. If the child's mother is considering allowing the child to be adopted, she may file for termination of parental rights. In that case, the unmarried father has no rights to the child if he had not already filed a claim of paternity. In other words, a father who wishes to keep his child must file claim of paternity before adoption proceedings take place, because his claim may not be recognized after the fact. It may be advisable to establish paternity before the baby is born in order to require the father's permission regarding this decision.