Under Florida law, fathers have certain legal rights and responsibilities. When you establish paternity, you can receive to time with your child and the ability to make important decisions about his or her upbringing. You must also support the child financially.

When a married woman gives birth, her husband is automatically the legal father. If you are not married to the mother of your child, take these steps to establish legal paternity.

Uncontested paternity

If you and the child’s mother agree that you are the father, you can both sign the state’s Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form. This document constitutes a sworn oath that you are the father. After 60 days, it becomes legally binding. You can sign this form at the hospital when your child is born or anytime thereafter.

Contested paternity

If one parent refuses to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, the other parent can request a court-ordered paternity determination. You must file a civil action in circuit court where either you or the child’s mother lives. You can start the process before the child is born. After the birth, both parents and the child must have a DNA test to confirm paternity.

If both parents agree to provide a DNA sample, you do not have to go to court. Otherwise, the judge will schedule a court hearing which both parties must attend. He or she may order the party who did not agree to provide a sample to pay the court costs and associated fees.

The DNA test requires a cheek swab, and you will receive results in the mail within two weeks. After the DNA test, the judge will issue an Administrative Order of Paternity if you are the father. In your civil action, you can request that the judge determine child custody and support if you are the father.