Parenthood lasts a lifetime, but romantic relationships may not. An unwed father may find himself in a struggle over a child when he splits with the mother.
Each state has different laws regarding paternity and time-sharing, and Florida’s statutes do not make it easy for all fathers. Unwed fathers should understand their parental rights.
Custody automatically goes to the mother
In Florida, an unmarried woman typically receives custodianship of any child she bears. Though a father can put his name on the birth certificate, this does not grant him parental rights unless the couple marries.
Establishing paternity requires court action
If the natural father does not marry his child’s mother, the only way to establish paternity is by filing with the court. A Florida resident who has resided in the state for at least six months can file a Petition to Establish Paternity. When the court accepts this petition, it can address issues regarding time-sharing, child support and a parenting plan.
Fathers do not necessarily get time-sharing rights
Even when a man establishes paternity, he does not automatically have the right to visit his child as he wishes. A mother retains legal custody, and the father must ensure the court order mandates his privilege of time-sharing.
If the father takes the child without court authorization, the mother can report him to the police for interfering with custody. However, the father may be able to defeat such charges if he removed his child because he believed the little one was in danger.
Loving parents want to have an active share in rearing their children. For an unwed father, maintaining a connection may require legal steps to protect his rights.