Do Unmarried Fathers Have a Right to Custody in Florida?
Families take all shapes and forms, and not all families are bound by marriage. While both married and unmarried parents are eligible for custody agreements, the process is different for unmarried parents. Unmarried fathers, in particular, are impacted by Florida’s laws. Under these laws, if parents are unmarried, only the mother is given legal rights to the child. This is true even if the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate. Many parents assume that they will automatically be given equal legal rights to the child, but unless they are married, this is not true. However, these rights can be acquired, there are just extra steps involved.
Custody Rights for Unmarried Fathers
If parents are unmarried, the mother has the authority to grant or deny visitation for the father. This can become frustrating, particularly when a couple is going through a rough patch or separating. However, there are options. Unmarried fathers can acquire legal rights to visit the child by establishing paternity. If the child’s mother will agree to voluntarily acknowledge the father’s paternity, both parents can sign and agree that the father is the child’s biological father and file this acknowledgement with the court. This is the easiest way. In the event that the mother disputes paternity or is not willing to sign an acknowledgement, the father can file a petition to determine paternity and for related relief. This essentially asks the court to determine paternity, as well as to work out a time-sharing schedule, and establish child support payments. This may require a DNA test to confirm paternity. However, once confirmed, you can move forward with legal rights and get court-ordered visitation.
How is a Custody Plan Determined?
After paternity has been confirmed, the court will determine custody and a time-sharing arrangement. This process is similar to that which would occur for a divorcing couple. If you and your co-parent are able to come to an agreement as to a custody and time-sharing arrangement that mutually works for you and prioritizes the best interest of your shared child or children, the court will likely approve it. Mutual agreement will be the most time and cost effective means of arriving at an agreement. A lawyer (or lawyers) can help you negotiate a custody plan and submit it to the court. However, in the event that you are unable to come to a mutual agreement, you can each submit your proposed plan to the court and the court will make a ruling based on the proposals and the best interest of the child. The child’s best interest is assessed based on a number of factors including each parents’ proximity to the child’s school, social and support networks, as well as the kind of home environment that each parent can provide. If the child is old enough, their preferences may also be considered.
Talk to a Florida Family Law Lawyer
If you need help creating a custody agreement that works for you and your child, the experienced family law attorneys at Miami’s SG Firm can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.