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Why unmarried fathers need to establish paternity

An increasing number of children in Florida are born outside of marriage. In many cases, the fathers do not go through the legal process of establishing paternity.

This can have unintended consequences. While unmarried mothers automatically have parental rights for children born out of wedlock, unmarried fathers do not have any rights unless they establish paternity.

Here are some of the potential consequences of not establishing paternity:

  • The mother could refuse to allow you to visit the child.
  • The mother could remove the child from Florida without notifying you or seeking permission from the court.
  • You would not have the right to authorize medical care for your child or make other parental decisions.
  • Your child would not have the right to inherit from you if you fail to include the child in your will.

Fathers may assume that they do not need to establish paternity if they have their name on the child's birth certificate. This is not the case. Simply having your name on the birth certificate does not mean you are the legal father and does not give you parental rights.

In Florida, you can establish paternity without a DNA test if the mother agrees that you are the father. If the mother does not agree, you would need a court-ordered DNA test to establish paternity.

Once you establish paternity, you will be the child's legal father. You could use the court system to protect your rights and request parenting time. You would also have the responsibility to contribute to your child's support.

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