Many babies are born to both married and unmarried Florida parents each year. Children born to moms and dads that have taken the plunge are automatically considered to belong to both of them. The same can't be said about babies born to unmarried parents. Maternity is automatic when a child is born. Paternity must be established if a dad wants to have visitation with or gain custody of their son or daughter.
If you weren't married to your child's mother when your son or daughter was born, Florida statute § 742.011, et seq. outlines two primary ways that you can establish paternity.
You can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity in front of two witnesses or a notary public if you both agree on your child's parentage. That same state statute also outlines how the mother may file a Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief if your son or daughter's father is unwilling to acknowledge their parentage.
A father will generally be able to immediately petition for visitation with or custody of their kids the minute that they voluntarily acknowledge their parentage. A mother gains the right to request that a judge order the child's father to pay child support when the father establishes paternity.
If a father initially denies paternity and is required to submit to DNA testing to confirm it, neither party will be able to enjoy the full extent of their parental rights until parentage is confirmed.
Establishing paternity in Florida is a pretty straightforward process. Merely proving that you're the father of a child doesn't qualify you to automatically receive visitation with or custody of your kids, however. You must still show a judge that you can provide a safe and loving environment for your child. A child custody attorney can help you prove that you can do this.