Florida Father’s Rights & Paternity Law
Paternity Law – Understanding the Legal Process
As the father of a child born to an unmarried woman, you have certain legal rights and obligations. However, unmarried parents do not have the same rights as married couples. Understanding your rights can be difficult, as there are a lot of misconceptions around Father’s Rights and what paternity affords you. We are here to help you gain a better understanding of how you can make sure your child has the best possible relationship with both parents.
What it Means to be on Your Child’s Birth Certificate
By signing a birth certificate, you are acknowledging that you are the biological and legal Father of the minor child. This means that you are taking legal responsibility of the child. Unfortunately, legal responsibility does not in any way give you rights of access to the child, or imply any type of time-sharing. However, it does establish the Father as the legal parent, and can be used in your further appeals to gain access to your child.
What is a Petition to Establish Paternity?
The next step would be to file a Petition to Establish Paternity. This would begin court proceedings to define the Parent’s right to time-sharing and individual contact with the child. The Petition deals mainly with calculating support and for a Parenting Plan to be entered with the Court. The Parenting Plan defines the decision making authority of each parent and the time-sharing agreement. The decision making authority is typically presumed to be 50/50, where as time-sharing is handled on a case by case basis.
The final judgment that results of from the Petition to Establish Paternity will provide the Father and Mother with an enforceable Court Order. This order is important because these provides both Parents with the rights and responsibilities associated with financial support as well as time-sharing that will give the child the benefits of having two parents.
What Happens if I Fail to Establish My Parental Rights?
If you fail to file a Petition to Establish Paternity, or until the time a decision is reached by the Court, the mother will retain 100% control of the minor child in regards to decision making and time-sharing. This means that the Mother also has the right to relocation with the minor child if she chooses, and the Father has no right to cause them to return. It is important to note, however, that if a Parent is unwilling to foster a relationship with the other Parent, this can be construed as not in the best interests of the minor child, and thus risks an unfavorable result in Court.
What Happens at a Child Support Hearing?
In conjunction with these is a Child Support Hearing. At this hearing, the Court will review the income of both Parents, as well as the expenses related to the child so they can establish the child support obligation. These hearings can also be used to establish legal paternity if the father is not listed on the birth certificate. These hearings do not in any way establish any time-sharing rights.
Why Father’s Rights Are Important
The Court’s top priority will be the child. It is important for a child to have a good relationship with both Parents. By not securing your rights, you could be putting the happiness and wellbeing of your child at risk. If you still have a relationship with the Mother, it can be hard to begin legal proceedings dealing with Father’s rights, but protecting your relationship with your child is important. Seeking legal advice can help you to minimize the impact of such decision on both your relationship with the other Parent as well as with the child. The best resolution is one where a child has two healthy and loving parents, and is the resolution we always seek.
If you want to know more about Florida Paternity Law and your rights about a father, contact us at (904) 337-4891 for a free consultation. Our family law attorneys are ready and willing to help.