Whether you are married, divorced or have a child out of wedlock, a child custody battle is stressful for everyone involved and Fathers’ Rights in Florida can be difficult to understand. However, before you can have your rights determined as a Father, you have to actually be the Father first. This calls into question a number of scenarios.
Establishing Paternity When Unmarried
In order to establish paternity, you must petition the court and let them know you would like to establish paternity of your child(ren). If you’re on the child(ren)’s birth certificate, it is presumed by the Court that you are Dad and you will not need to conduct a DNA test. However, if you are not on the child’s birth certificate, and you or the mother have questions about whether you are the biological Father, you and the child will need to submit to DNA testing. This typically is going to be done before you’re allowed to spend time with the minor child unless you’re already doing so. The sooner you start this process, the better because the results of the DNA test can take more than 30 days to receive.
Once you receive the DNA testing back, the Court will issue (possibly after trial) a Final Judgment of Paternity which will outline your rights as the dad, including, parental responsibility, time-sharing with the child, communication with the child, and child support.
Even if you do not want to be involved in the child’s life, the mother can institute a Department of Revenue action against unmarried Fathers requiring them to pay child support for the minor child. If you think the child may not be yours, you need to make sure to bring that up at the time of the DOR action.
If you are married to the mother of your children, both you and the mother have equal rights and responsibilities. This means that both you and the mother of your child can make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, religion, education, and more. If divorce occurs, circumstances may change. It’s important to contact a Family Law Attorney to determine your Fathers’ Rights in Florida.
In the event you have a pending divorce, you and the mother of your child(ren) can decide to create an agreement involving the children, such as visitation, holidays, and more. Creating a parenting plan is a great way to work with the mother of your child if you can both work together without any major issues.
If the two of you are not able to come to an agreement, both parties will have to attend mediation before anything is heard in the court of law. If a parenting plan is not agreed upon in mediation, the judge will have the opportunity to rule the way he/she sees fit. Keep in mind that a judge will always rule in the best interest of the child, meaning the best decision to be made is one that will best benefit the child. The judges rely on the factors contained in Florida Statute 61.13 to make these determinations.
We’re Here To Help You Understand Fathers’ Rights in Florida
Child custody issues can be difficult and emotional. Such emotions and stress may lead to poor decisions. It’s important to understand your rights as a Father ahead of time before going into any custody battle. An experienced child custody attorney can help you get on the right track and help you determine the best course of action for you and your child. If you have questions, please contact us. We are here to help you.