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What Are the Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Florida?
In Florida, unmarried fathers must establish paternity to assert their rights. There is a common myth that the law favors mothers in child custody cases. But Florida law has no preference for either parent when it comes to custody and parental rights.
Unmarried fathers in Florida have parental rights. Florida law disfavors terminating parental rights. An attorney can help you preserve your rights.
Each child custody case is different and an attorney can help you deal with your unique issues.
Some common issues attorneys can help with:
Developing a parenting plan
An experienced child custody attorney can help ease the process for unmarried fathers.
Establishing paternity is the first step to asserting parental rights. Florida calls their custody and visitation rights parental responsibility and time-sharing. Parental rights include decision-making input.
Florida law provides several ways for a father to establish paternity of a child born out of wedlock:
Marriage of the parents. If the parents of a child get married, paternity is established in the husband.
Formally establishing paternity triggers the child’s eligibility for health insurance and other benefits.
There is not always an agreement regarding paternity. The biological father can file a petition asking the court to establish paternity. The court will order a DNA test to establish paternity.
Custody Arrangements in Florida
Unmarried fathers do not have to give up their rights to their children. Florida law requires courts to make custody decisions based on the best interest of the child. In determining the best interest of the child, the court will consider:
Both parents’ mental and physical health
Each parent’s ability to provide a consistent routine
Any history of substance abuse or domestic violence
How the parents plan to divide parental responsibility
In cases involving drug abuse or domestic violence, a court may award sole custody to one parent. Usually, child custody awards assure frequent and continuing contact between parents and children.
Florida law requires parents to develop and submit a parenting plan. Parenting plans state how to handle decision-making and parental responsibility. A parenting plan should state which parent makes decisions about a child’s:
Activities, like sports or music lessons
They also set out where the child will live and how much time they will spend with each parent. They might also address relocation.
Legal Custody and Time-Sharing
There are two parts to custody: legal custody and physical custody. In Florida, decision-making responsibility is referred to as legal custody. Time-sharing, or physical custody, is the amount of time a child spends with a parent.
Very rarely, but occasionally, after paternity is established, a father learns he is not the biological father of a child. In this situation, fathers can contest paternity. The disestablishment of paternity ends paternity and the duty to pay child support.
When to Get an Attorney to Assert Parental Rights
If you are the father of a child and you want to assert your parental rights, an attorney can help. The first step is to establish paternity. Then, an attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to show the court that spending time with you is in your child’s best interest.