In Florida a man that has a child out of wedlock, has very little to no rights to the child. That means the Mother is entitled to primary residential care and custody unless a court orderstates otherwise. Fla. Stat. 744.301(1). Because the Mother is sole custodian of a child born out of wedlock she can deny allowing the father contact with the child, she may the leave the State before a paternity order is entered and she cannot be ordered to return until a paternity order is entered.
So what is an unmarried man to do when he thinks he might have fathered a child? The first thing he should do is to add his name to the Florida Putative Father Registry. So what is the Putative Father Registry? It is a registry which provides a way for men to be notified when an action to terminate their parental rights and an adoption is filed for a child. Now the registry doesn’t guarantee the biological father any rights, it simply guarantees that he is notified of the impending adoption, so he may take the legal steps to fight it if he chooses.
After registering in the Putative Father Registry, the biological father will then need to sue the Mother of the child for Paternity in which he can ask for a DNA blood test, admit he is the father and seek the court to determine him to be the Father and have all rights as any married father, including timesharing.
If the biological father is not interested in being part of the child’s life, the Mother and/or the Department of Children and Families can bring an action of Paternity against the biological father and seek only child support. In these cases, the judge and or General Magistrate will not and cannot grant you timesharing or parental rights. All they can do is order you to pay child support.
So, if you think you may have fathered a child out of wedlock, first file a claim in the Florida Putative Father Registry at http://www.floridahealth.gov/certificates/certificates/birth/Putative_Father/index.html
Secondly set up an appointment with a local family law attorney to find out how to protect your rights.
Andrew G. Storie is a family law and divorce attorney who serves Orlando and all of Central Florida. For more information, or if you have any questions about paternity here in Florida please visit http://www.storielaw.com/ or call us at (407) 838-0887.