In Florida, unmarried fathers do not have the same parental rights as married fathers – even if their name is listed on a child’s birth certificate. Because Florida only presumes that legal fathers are those who are married to the mothers of their children, unmarried fathers must establish legal fatherhood and gain parental rights through legal action.
If you are an unmarried father and wish to assert your rights as a parent, you must establish paternity. This can be done in in the following ways:
- Voluntarily signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity with the child’s mother; or
- Establishing legal fatherhood through a paternity action with the court and genetic testing (if a mother contests voluntary paternity).
When paternity is established, fathers and mothers are both responsible for supporting their child. They will also have other parental rights, including:
- Child custody
- Visitation / timesharing
- Making important decisions about the child’s welfare (medical, education, etc.)
Unmarried fathers and mothers who have established paternity can work together to reach compromises for sharing responsibilities, custody, and parenting time. Because Florida family courts want both parents to be involved in the lives of their children, they generally favor amicable agreements and parenting plans that allow for joint custody. This gives both parents an equal say over important decisions, including where the child will primarily live, where they will attend school, and more. Parenting plans can also include clear explanations for clear division of parental duties, detailed timesharing schedules, and how communication should be handled.
In some cases, parents may disagree over who should have custody of their children. In these situations, parents can pursue legal action to establish sole physical custody, which means the child will live primarily with one parent, while the non-custodial parent has rights to visitation. When making determinations about custody arrangements when parents can’t agree, courts will also prioritize the best interests of a child. They don’t give preference based on the parent’s gender. Additionally, decisions can be influenced by certain factors, including the financial and physical ability of each parent to provide for their child, substance abuse, criminal activity, and domestic violence.
If you are an unmarried father looking to assert your rights, establish paternity, create an effective parenting plan, or pursue custody of your child, our Boca Raton family law attorneys at Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC are available to help! Since 2004, we’ve handled thousands of divorce and family law cases for our clients, including fathers. Call (561) 336-6082 to speak with a member of our team.