Many people in today’s society have kids and live with their partner, but do not marry. It’s much more common now than it was 40 years ago, and creates what is called a Paternity case.
Paternity cases in Florida occur when the parents are not married.
Legally, the Father must establish his rights when it comes to custody or visitation. He must also seek court action to establish other rights, such as the right to see the child’s school and medical records. The mother of a child who is “born out of wedlock” is entitled to primary residential care unless a court changes this. By contrast, men who are married to the mother automatically have custody rights. A married man is considered a natural guardian of the child. He may have custody without a court order.
When a mother gives birth to a child, it is assumed that the husband is the biological father. By law, the husband is considered the legal father, even if he is not the biological father. If a woman is pregnant before marriage, however, then “paternity” must be established. It is common practice for the unmarried father to sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” form, often at the hospital.
When the parents sign this document, they are acknowledging that the male signing the form is the child’s legal father. If the father does not rescind it within 60 days, then the Acknowledgment creates a rebuttable presumption that he is the father. This form can later be used in a child support proceeding and of course it can be used to establish custody rights.
Paternity actions can be filed where either party resides.
It needs to state sufficient facts to establish a basis for paternity, and it should include a request to determine child support and/or parental responsibility. This means giving both parents access, and a say, to a child’s medical and educational needs.
Once filed, a court will use the same parenting time sharing/custody provisions which are used in a divorce case. This includes an equal look at both parents, and deciding things based on what is in the best interests of the child. Refusing to allow the other parent to see his or her child is included in the statutory factors.
We have helped many parents over the years with paternity cases. We can help you if you are involved in a custody case. Often these cases can be resolved out of court through mediation. But it’s best to be ready for court if needed.