The 2010 U.S. census shows that roughly 41 percent of children born in the United States are born out of wedlock. It may be completely obvious that you are the father of your child. However, if the child was born out of wedlock, it may not be so obvious to the courts. What happens when a new spouse wants to adopt your child? What happens to your standing as a parent? These are just a few of the questions that unmarried parents may face.

Florida law declares that when parents of a child born out of wedlock marry, the child becomes the legal child of that couple. However, if the mother marries another, the biological father‘s rights to petition for paternity are limited both by the law and by time. You may find yourself stripped of the possibility of legal paternity and any chance to prevent the adoption of your child by a new spouse if you have not filed the correct legal paternity papers before a petition to terminate your parental rights is filed.

Legal paternity does not just determine the responsibilities you carry for your children. It determines the rights you have to be involved in their lives. If your parental rights are terminated, it’s as if you were never a child’s parent as far as the law is concerned.

Florida’s custody laws for children born out of wedlock are complicated and sometimes downright messy. If you do not act swiftly and correctly, you could find yourself left out in the cold. When it comes to your children, losing them because of a misfiled paper or a misunderstood law is tragic. A knowledgeable attorney can help ensure your parental rights are protected. If your child was born out of wedlock, don’t wait until it’s too late. Speak with a lawyer about the steps you need to take today.