An Overview of Unmarried Fathers’ Rights in Florida
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 46 percent of children born in Florida are born to unmarried parents. If you are an unmarried father, you may have questions about your legal rights and legal responsibilities. In Florida, an unmarried father has equal parental rights, but only if paternity has been established. Here, our Clearwater family law attorney provides a more comprehensive overview of the most important things you should know about unwed fathers’ rights in Florida.
Unmarried Fathers: No Parental Rights Without Paternity
Paternity is the basis of man’s parental rights in Florida. As noted by the Florida Department of Revenue, “paternity gives rights and benefits to the mother, the father and the child.” Put another way, a father has no legal rights (or legal responsibilities) to a child unless paternity has been established. For a married man, establishing paternity is straightforward. In fact, no action needs to be taken. A married man is automatically presumed to be the legal father of his wife’s child. In contrast, proving paternity can be more complicated for an unmarried man. Options for establishing paternity include:
- A voluntary acknowledgement of paternity form signed by both parents;
- Genetic testing through an administrative order or a court order.
If you are an unmarried man and you need help proving paternity, an experienced Florida family law attorney can help. In some cases, establishing paternity can be quite complicated—particularly if the child’s mother refuses to offer any level of cooperation.
Fathers and Mothers Have Equal Parental Rights in Florida
Once paternity has been established, unmarried fathers have every right to establish a full relationship with their child. Florida’s child custody and child visitation laws are applied in a gender neutral manner. Florida courts are not permitted to inherently favor a mother in a custody or visitation dispute. In other words, fathers and mothers have equal rights. In effect, this means that unmarried fathers can:
- Seek child custody;
- Seek child visitation rights; and
- If granted sole or primary custody, seek child support from the mother.
Of course, in practice, it is not always so easy for unmarried fathers to navigate the custody or visitation process. Unfortunately, some courts still demonstrate unconscious bias towards fathers. It is crucial that unmarried fathers build the strongest possible case to assert their parental rights. Florida uses the ‘best interests of the child’ standard. Unmarried fathers should be prepared to prove that they can provide a happy, safe, and stable environment for their children.
Call Our Clearwater Family Lawyer for Immediate Legal Help
At the Law Office of Gale H. Moore P.A., our Florida family law attorney is a skilled and solutions-driven representative for clients. If you have any questions about unmarried fathers’ rights in Florida, we are more than ready to get started. Contact us now for a strictly confidential, no obligation consultation. We represent fathers throughout the entire region, including in Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Oldsmar, Belleair, and Westchase.