For umarried fathers, it's necessary for them to establish paternity before before they can request custody or be ordered to pay child support. For mothers, it's established at birth.
In Florida, a dad can voluntarily acknowledge that he's the father of a child by filling out and signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity in front of a notary and witnesses under law § 742.011, et seq. Even in cases in which he does, though, a mother can still deny it. In cases such as this, a judge may step in and order a DNA test to confirm it.
If a dad refuses to acknowledge his parentage, then the mother may file a Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief. Once she does, the alleged father may be subjected to DNA testing to prove his parentage.
Once a father establishes paternity, he is eligible to file for visitation or custody with their child under § 61.10, et seq. This law also entitles the mother to request that the dad pay child support and cover other expenses as well.
Before a judge will a decision about visitation or custody, both parents much draft and agree to a parenting plan.
While the steps to go through to establish paternity are not difficult to navigate, gaining visitation and custodial rights can be more challenging. This is especially the case if you have been out of your child's life for an extended period of time. A Fort Myers child custody attorney can help you establish your paternity and draft a parenting plan that allows you to spend more with your son or daughter.