There was a time not long ago when it was impossible to know who was actually the father of a child. Many people would make the assumption that the spouse or partner of the mother was the father of the child, but that is not always the case. Thankfully, modern science has reached a point where it is relatively straightforward for a father to establish whether he has a genetic link to the child.
If you believe that you are the father of a child and you want to start asserting your rights as a parent in Florida, the first thing you need to do is establish paternity. Depending on your circumstances, you may already be the established father of the child.
Did the mother list you on the birth certificate?
If the mother named you as the father on the birth certificate, then Florida already considers you the father of the child. The same is true if you were married to the mother at the time of the child's birth or conception. However, if you are not on the birth certificate, then you will have to establish yourself as the father for the state of Florida to take action in your custody situation.
It may be possible to work with the mother of your child to execute a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form. Both parents must attest to the fact that they believe themselves to be the child's parents. However, if the mother did not list you on the birth certificate, she may not be willing to execute the document with you.
The courts will not consider an acknowledgment valid unless the mother agrees with your assertion of paternity. In other words, if she will not sign off on your paternity, you will have to ask the court to verify it.
The courts can compel genetic testing
Just like the courts could demand that you submit to a genetic paternity test if a mother named you as the father of her child, the courts can also demand that a mother present a child for genetic testing when a father claims paternity. Once the courts collect a genetic sample from you and the child, they will be able to establish within a fraction of a percentage whether or not you are the father of the child.
Although there are occasionally issues, these tests are highly reliable and regarded as concrete evidence by the courts. Provided that the test confirms your assertion that you are the father of the child, you will be able to have your name added to the birth certificate and then also to pursue your parental rights as a father, which could include visitation with or custody of your children.