Recent changes to the law in Florida have bolstered the parental rights of unmarried fathers. With these adjustments, the state has taken additional steps to ensure that a man can keep a connection with his children.
However, unwed fathers may have to take certain steps to ensure those rights. The first step is understanding those rights.
An unmarried man may be able to confirm or disestablish paternity
The Shared Parental Responsibility After the Establishment of Paternity statute lays the basis for a father’s legal rights. Typically, an unmarried man can establish paternity through one of two options without getting a paternity test. Firstly, if he marries the child’s mother, he establishes paternity. Secondly, both parents can sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form, which is a shared commitment with legal weight.
From that point, the man can fight for rights for custody and timesharing if the couple split. Likewise, a man might also become responsible for child support. However, if a man cannot confirm paternity through the preceding methods, he may have to get a DNA test.
At the same time, a father can contest paternity in rare instances. If he proves he is not the biological father of the child, he may relinquish his authority over and duties to a child.
An unmarried father can request legal custody and time-sharing
Unmarried fathers in Florida can pursue legal custody and time-sharing of children by submitting a parenting plan to the Family Court. This plan outlines responsibilities and visitation schedules, as well as decisions on education, healthcare and daily tasks. The document can also outline guidelines for how to proceed in case one parent has to relocate.
The court decides whether to approve a plan by considering the child’s well-being and the parents’ health and routines. A court will often try to accommodate the parents when they collaborate on a plan. A father does well to maintain respectful and open communication with the child’s mother to improve the odds of designing a favorable plan that the court will accept.
Fathers play an important role for their children. A man can ensure his place in his children’s lives by understanding his options for establishing paternity and gaining custody.