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Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Decades-Old Rule that Disadvantaged Biological Fathers

FatherSon

On June 28th, 2018 the Supreme Court of Florida issued a major ruling in a key family law case. In Treneka Simmonds v. Connor Perkins, Florida’s highest court struck down a decades-old legal rule that severely disadvantaged biological fathers by putting a child’s ‘legitimacy’ ahead of a father’s parental rights.

This is an important step forward for the state of Florida. The previous family law rule was antiquated and it unfairly disadvantaged unmarried fathers. In this article, our experienced Clearwater child custody attorney offers an analysis of this case and explains what it means for fathers going forward.

The Facts  

In this case, there was no dispute that the man filing the claim was the biological father of the child. However, unbeknownst to this father, his partner became pregnant while she was still married to another man. When a dispute arose of child custody, the mother and her husband attempted to deny any rights to the child’s biological father.

A South Florida judge ruled against the biological father on the grounds that the mother was still in an ‘intact marriage’. In making this ruling, the judge pointed to a decades-old rule that denied a biological father any rights if the child was born into an intact marriage and both the mother and her husband objected to his paternity claim. 

The Decision  

Mr. Perkins, the biological father bringing this claim, appealed the decision. Eventually this case made it all the way to the Supreme Court of Florida. In applying the ‘best interests of the child’ legal standard, the state’s highest court determined that the biological father’s paternity claim must be reconsidered. The inflexibility of the rule that required a judge to automatically dismiss his rights in favor of the intact marriage was an inappropriate application of state law. 

The Implications

The case has significant implications for unmarried fathers and their children. With this legal precedent in place, it no longer makes sense for Florida courts to dismiss an unmarried father’s paternity claim solely on the grounds that his former partner is still in an intact marriage. That inflexible rule is simply not in the best interests of children.

However, it is still unclear how this decision will affect some other cases. Notably, the biological father involved in this case was a so-called ‘ideal plaintiff’. He was in the hospital during the child’s birth, consistently involved in her life, and did not even know the mother was married. In other more complex cases, biological fathers may still face some disadvantages. That being said, this is a big win for unmarried fathers: the outdated rule that blindly favored ‘legitimacy’ over a biological father’s rights has been overturned.

Get Family Law Help in Florida

At the Law Office of Gale H. Moore P.A., we handle the full range of marital and family law cases in Florida. For a fully private consultation, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Largo, FL office today at 727-584-2528. We represent clients in Largo, Clearwater, and throughout the surrounding communities.

Resource:

floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2018/sc17-1963.pdf

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