In recent decades, Florida courts have shown more appreciation for the important role of fathers in their children’s lives. For example, the idea of a mother having “primary custody” of the children while the father only has “visitation” is mostly a thing of the past. Today, parenting plans contain a lot more detail and nuance about the role of each parent. All of this is simple enough when it comes to fathers who have gone through a divorce from the children’s mother. But what about when the child’s parents were never married to each other? Then is it easy for the mother to keep the children away from the father? In order for unmarried fathers to be able to defend their legal rights to a meaningful relationship with their children, they must first legally establish paternity.
What Rights do Fathers Have?
You might think that going through the process to establish paternity is unnecessary red tape, especially if you communicate well enough with your child’s mother that there have never been any major disagreements about the child. You might have an unwritten agreement where you take care of the child at certain times and provide some financial support to the child. Without legally establishing paternity, though, anything can change. What if a new partner enters the picture? What if one of you decides to move out of state?
A child’s legal father has certain rights and obligations regarding his children.
- Physical custody: The court can enforce the father’s right to spend a certain number of days per year with the children. (This is called “timesharing” in the Florida parenting plan.)
- Legal custody: The father has the right to act on the children’s behalf and make major decisions regarding them. This is especially important regarding schools; legal custody is the right to decide everything from which school the children attend to which extracurricular activities they can do.
- Child support: You might not think of paying child support as a “right,” but Florida law also considers the father’s needs and ability to pay in determining how much child support her should pay. If the children spend more time with you and your income is lower than your ex’s, the court might require her to pay child support.
How to Get the Court to Recognize You as the Child’s Father
The easiest way for an unmarried father to become recognized as the legal father is to file a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. Once you and the child’s mother file this signed statement with the court, it will become legally binding 60 days later. The court may or may not ask you to take a DNA test to prove that you are the biological father of the child.
Burton Law is Here to Help Fathers
When you have established legal paternity, the court cannot take your children away from you, except in very extreme circumstances. Contact Alan Burton in Palm Beach County in order to have the court legally acknowledge you as the father of your children.