Under the law, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if the man is married to the child's mother when the child is born. However, unmarried fathers need to take extra steps in order to be presumed the child's father and parental rights.
One of the easiest ways to establish paternity for unmarried fathers is by signing a legal document that acknowledges paternity with the mother of the child. This can be done when the child is born. However, sometimes things don't work out that easily.
If a man believes he might have fathered a child but is no longer in contact with the mother, the man can sign up for what is called the Florida Putative Father Registry. This registry preserves the man's right to be notified if his child is placed for adoption so that he can potentially contest the adoption.
To sign up for the registry, the man can file a Claim of Paternity with the Bureau of Vital Statistics any time prior to the child's birth and before a petition for termination of parental rights is filed. The form requires the potential mother's name and contact information, if available.
When adoption proceedings begin involving a child whose mother has been named on the form, the potential father is notified, which is why it's essential to provide up-to-date contact information.
It's important to keep in mind that signing up for the registry does not establish paternity or affect the child's birth record. This has to be done separately with the mother's consent or through a paternity case.
The Florida Putative Father Registry is confidential and is only provided to potential adoption agencies, the man who registered, the court and the birth mother who is named on the registry entry.
The Claim of Paternity can be filed online on the Florida Department of Health's website.