Can Unwed Fathers Get Custody of Their Children?

If a child is born to a single mother, the mother alone has full custody of her child. Unless paternity is established, a father has no legal right to custody or responsibility to pay child support.

If you’re a new father, this is probably a very exciting time for you. If you aren’t married to your new baby’s mother, however, it can be a stressful one, too. While many fathers believe that being present at your child’s birth is enough to establish paternity, it’s not. Even signing your child’s birth certificate and listing yourself as your child’s father doesn’t establish any legal rights or responsibilities over your child.

Keep reading to learn more about how paternity can help you bridge the gap and seek custody of your child.

What Is Paternity?

Paternity refers to the legal establishment of a child’s father or another adult as their parent. This legal relationship confers many rights and responsibilities to parents, primarily the right to seek custody and visitation and the responsibility to pay child support.

When a child is born to a married couple, the mother is automatically considered a legal parent, and her partner is considered the presumptive parent. In this situation, there is almost no need to establish paternity by any other means.

If a child is born to a single mother, however, establishing paternity may be necessary. Without doing so, a father has no legal authority to parent their child and no legal responsibility to financially support them.

Establishing Paternity

In Florida, the paternity of children born to unwed adults is typically handled in one of two ways: The first is by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity, and the second is by filing a civil lawsuit to establish paternity.

Acknowledge of Paternity

The Acknowledgment of Paternity is a formal document signed by both mother and father that establishes a child’s paternity. In situations where there is no dispute about who a child’s father is, this document may be all that’s needed to establish paternity.

Acknowledgments of Paternity can be signed at a child’s birth or at any time until a child turns 18.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit for Paternity

If there is a dispute about who a child’s father is, filing a civil lawsuit may be necessary.

When courts are asked to consider paternity, they can issue a genetic test to determine the biological relationship between the alleged father and the child whose parentage is in question. If the child and father are biologically related, then the court may issue an order establishing paternity.

Get Help from an Experienced Attorney

If you need legal assistance with a paternity action or a child custody matter, reach out to our experienced legal team at Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. We have many years of experience helping clients reach better outcomes to difficult family law challenges.

For more information about how we can help, schedule a consultation when you contact us today.