Any child custody attorney says the same thing: family law court can be a messy process. There is nothing pleasant about contested divorce, property dispute, and/or child custody proceedings. But, you can reduce the trauma if you understand your rights as a father.
1. Paternity rights
- When an unmarried woman gives birth in Florida, they do not list the father on the birth certificate unless both parents have signed an affidavit naming the man is the father.
- If the unmarried mother does not declare the paternity of the child, the biological father may have himself declared the father corroborated through paternity testing.
- If the unmarried biological father wants notice of adoption or other proceedings, he may file a claim of paternity through the Florida Putative Registry.
- If the unmarried biological father does nothing or delays action to establish his relationship, he may lose all and any rights.
- Married and divorcing fathers need advice on child support, custody, visitation, and decision-making rights.
2. Custody rights
A child's best interest lies in shared parenting where children spend as much time with their parents as possible. Divorce does not eliminate the father's right to share. For most fathers, teaching, training, and caring for a child can be a personally important and special lifetime role.
The rights to be involved in the life of your child are not automatic. The mother does not have to establish maternity, but the father must establish paternity. Psychologists, lawyers, and judges agree the ideal arrangement is a formal custody/time sharing plan with financial contributions by both parents. However, in a climate that shows bias towards mothers, you are not likely to secure the ideal balance without the support and assistance of a family law qualified attorney.
3. Child support
The Florida state laws on child support are rather standard, but they are also fixed. Family Court does not exercise much flexibility. The Court considers:
- what you earn
- what your ex-spouse earns
- how many children there are
- what percent of the child's time is spent with each parent
The Court will occasionally consider an exceptional expense, but the burden of proof of need is on the claimant. And, little consideration is made in respect to the father's rent, mortgage, or other expenses.
In addition to the mandated support, the Court may decide to assess parents for child care costs, uninsured medical costs, or some educational costs. That assessment may not seem equitable.
4. Decision making
Since 2008, Florida fathers have a stronger voice in making decisions on a child's education, religious practices, health care, and recreational activities. All such decisions will be made jointly unless there is a significant reason to suppress that right.
5. Visitation rights
Visitation is a right defined with the custody understanding. The parenting sharing plan accepted by the Court should work for both parents. This includes access to schools, records, and the child's activities. When such orders are not followed by the sharing partner, you need legal support in logging the violations that could void or modify the original agreement.
Divorced or unmarried fathers are best served by experienced lawyers well versed in the unique Family Court experience. Schedule your consultation today by calling Kenny Leigh & Associates or by stopping at one of our locations in Jacksonville, Gainesville, Daytona, Fleming Island, and Boca Raton, FL. Call us today to reach the legal team that supports your concerns for the best interest of your child. They provide support and expertise in matters of divorce, child and spousal support, modification of orders and appeals, property division and alimony, and violation of your parental rights.