Both mothers and fathers in Florida have roughly the same legal rights. Either parent can potentially ask for time-sharing and legal authority over their children. The law does not favor one parent over the other, provided that each adult has their name on the birth certificate for their children.
However, not all men automatically have their names included on the birth certificates of their children in Florida. Married Florida fathers benefit from a presumption of paternity. Hospitals automatically include the husband of a new mother on an infant’s birth certificate.
An unmarried father can only add their name to a birth certificate at the hospital if the mother agrees to fill out paperwork with him. She could also work with him to amend the existing birth certificate at any point until their child reaches adulthood. If a woman refuses to voluntarily acknowledge the father of her child, Florida can assist by ordering genetic testing. Can a mother refuse to present a child for genetic tests in a Florida paternity case?
Genetic testing is not invasive
Parents do sometimes have the option of declining certain types of medical care when they believe it is unnecessary, harmful or invasive. Mothers who currently have full custody have the right to make determinations about a child’s medical care. However, there isn’t really any reasonable justification to deny genetic testing.
Florida uses a cheek swab method which is painless and completely non-invasive. A mother who refuses to present a child for paternity testing could face consequences for that decision, including consequences for contempt of court. Even when a mother does not want to acknowledge the father of her child, she generally cannot ignore a request from the Florida family courts to present herself and the child for genetic testing.
If the outcome of the test confirms the man’s claim that he is the biological father of the child, he can then make use of all the same rights that married fathers have. He can request child custody hearings that could lead to an order of time-sharing and an allocation of decision-making authority.
Understanding the different options for establishing paternity in Florida may help motivate men who previously didn’t know their rights to assume a more active role in the lives of their children.