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The different classifications of a 'father' according to the law

In the age of blended families, the circumstances that make a man a father have come a long way in recent decades. Blood ties are not necessarily required in order for a man to step into the role of protector, provider and parent. Even so, many men want their biological connections to a child recognized.

In some cases, Florida law does this automatically. However, when the parents of a child are not married to each other, the biological father will need to obtain legal recognition of his status as a parent in order to gain all of the rights and responsibilities that come with being a father.

The law recognizes different classifications of a father

Fathers tend to fall into one of four categories under the law:

  • The presumed father is a man assumed to be the legal father under the following circumstances:
    • Married the mother after the birth, agreed to be put on the birth certificate and agreed to support the child
    • Married to the mother when the child was conceived or born
    • Welcomed the child into his home and proclaimed the child as his
    • Attempted to marry the mother when the child was conceived or born
  • The acknowledged father is a man who acknowledges he is the biological father but is not married to the mother.
  • The unwed father is a man who impregnated a woman but is not married to the her. Parental rights may be a challenge to receive.
  • The equitable father is a man with no blood or adoptive ties to the child but wishes to have parental rights. Often this husband supports the child and has a mutually acknowledged relationship with the child.

Any of these fathers could end up with custody and visitation rights, along with the obligation to pay child support. The category of father under which the most parents file paternity suits is the presumed father.

Paternity actions may be filed by a man or a woman

What many people see is a mother who seeks child support from the man she claims is the father of her child. However, there are men who want to be a part of the life of a child he believes is his. If a mother refuses to acknowledge him as the biological parent, he may file a paternity action to obtain a DNA test. If the test indicates he is the biological father, the court may recognize him as the legal father as well. At that point, he receives all of the rights and obligations that come with being a parent.

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