Nothing is more daunting than trying to figure out your parental rights as an unmarried father; you want to make sure you assert yourself, but you also need to cover your bases legally. As an unmarried father in Sarasota, you do have some rights protected under the constitution that you should be aware of.
For instance, you have a right to see your child when you have already established a substantial relationship. So, if you and the child's mother lived together to raise the child, it's automatically assumed that you have a relationship of some substance with that child. You get the opportunity to establish that relationship in situations where you did not get the chance to do so as long as you are biologically linked with a child. Because of these protections, you have a right to attempt to be involved in or to be involved in your child's upbringing, pending the approval and agreement of the court and the recognition of your parental rights.
When you have not established a relationship with your child, then the states have discretion as to how your parental rights will be recognized. While it may be more difficult to obtain custody and visitation rights if you were not married to the child's mother, you can establish paternity to make sure you are recognized as a biological parent and can seek custody and visitation rights by law.
Once you establish paternity, you gain rights like the right to notice about court proceedings regarding your child, petitions for adoption, or hearings for the termination of parental rights.
Source: State Statutes, "The Rights of Unmarried Fathers," Kristine Walker, accessed Sep. 29, 2016