Contact Brown Law, P.L., Today at 407-344-3400
If you are the father of a child born into your intact marriage, when you divorce, YOUR FATHER’S RIGHTS ARE EQUAL TO THE MOTHER’S RIGHTS. You each have equal parenting rights and responsibilities. BUT FATHERS MAY HAVE TO FIGHT HARDER TO CLAIM THEIR EQUAL RIGHTS.
The Florida legislature has taken huge strides in recognizing father’s rights. In Florida, the law in recent years has begun to allow for equal treatment of fathers and mothers. Additionally, Florida divorce is “no-fault.” Neither husband nor wife need drag out the dirty laundry to prove the misconduct of the other unless it involves the waste or theft of marital assets and the spouses cannot agree on the division of assets and liabilities. Marital misconduct can be a factor in alimony decisions, but generally not in child related matters unless the misconduct is in the presence of the child. In Florida, “custody” is now called “timesharing.” There is no presumption under the law that a child’s interests are better served by a mother or by a father. There is recognition that both mothers and fathers should contribute to their children’s nurturing and development as well as to their financial support.
Father’s Rights To Time Sharing And Child Support.
In my office and in the courtrooms, I hear the viewpoints of men and women, mothers and fathers, and attorneys and judges. As a Florida Supreme Court Family Law Mediator, in confidential mediation settings, I hear both sides of custody battles. I know that, unfortunately, there are still people who cling to their stereotypes of the deadbeat dad, the incompetent dad, and the fair-weather weekend dad. It was once the law in Florida, under the “tender years” doctrine, that very young children were better served by spending significantly more time of their time with their mothers than with their fathers. It was once the law in Florida that “rotating custody,” such as week-on/week-off, was not good for children. Those legal ideas are obsolete. Unfortunately, old stereotypes and outdated ideas are not held just by “people” in general. They are sometimes held by the very people who are involved in influencing the court ordered parenting arrangements in your divorce or paternity case. Divorcing mothers, unmarried mothers, in-laws and relatives, family law attorneys, and even judges can have preconceived notions and preferences that hold over from years past. In many cases, this means that fathers and their attorneys must still fight harder to claim their equal rights and to assure that the child is not deprived of time with the father simply because the mother believes the child should be primarily with the mother, believes she is the better parent, wants to save face by being declared by the court to be the better parent, wants more child support to live more comfortably, or believes she deserves more child support than the Florida Legislature has prescribed.
Although it is true that some fathers do not immediately step up to the plate, either financially or in parenting, Brown Law, P.L. firmly believes that every father should be given the opportunity to participate fully and to take his full share of responsibility for his role in the child’s life. Fathers deserve it, children need it, and even those mothers who may be angry, punitive, needy or greedy in the beginning will grow to appreciate the benefits to the child and the lightened long-term load of shared parenting.
Unmarried Father’s Rights in Florida
If you are the father of a child in Florida and the mother is not married at the time of birth of the child, YOU MUST TAKE IMMEDIATE LEGAL ACTION TO CLAIM FATHER’S RIGHTS.
You can lose your opportunity to have ANY father’s rights if you do not act immediately. Until you take legal action, if the child’s mother is not married, she has complete and absolute legal and physical control of the child at birth. You, as the biological father of the child, have no parental rights, and you begin to accumulate debt unless you contribute to birth expenses and pay a sufficient amount of child support. You can be ordered to pay child support and birth expenses even if you never see the child; child support is not tied to visitation. If the mother accepts food stamps or any other form of assistance from the State of Florida, the attorneys for the Florida Department of Revenue will bring you to a hearing, examine your finances, and collect past due and ongoing child support from you by deducting up to 55% of your net pay. Even if you, the biological father, voluntarily pay birth expenses and child support to the mother, until there is legal action, the unmarried mother is free to move with the child out of the city, out of the county, out of the state, and even out of the country. And unless you, as the biological father, take legal action immediately, the unmarried mother may give the child up for adoption without your consent.
If you are the biological father of a child born to a mother who is married to another man, in most cases, her husband is presumed to be the legal father of the child – you are legally considered to be a STRANGER to the child. If you do not take IMMEDIATE LEGAL ACTION, the mother’s husband will remain the father of your child in the eyes of the law, and you (and your child’s biological grandparents) may never be allowed to see the child or receive any information about the child.
A paternity lawsuit establishes your father’s rights.
If you file a law suit to establish that you are the father of the child and to claim your father’s rights, the child’s mother must answer as to whether she agrees that you are the father. If she does not agree, you may request DNA testing if you can convince the court that it would benefit the child for you to be named as the father. The court can deny your request if, for example, the husband of the child’s mother objects, or if it appears that you would be a danger to the child. After the mother or a positive DNA test confirms your paternity, the case turns to defining a Parenting Plan that governs all parenting matters, including father’s rights and responsibilities and time sharing.