Plenty of children are born every year in Florida to parents who are not married. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. For fathers, though, it is important to take certain steps to establish parental rights.
When two people are married and a child is born, the simple fact that the couple is married means that paternity is automatically established. For parents who are not married — even if the couple is in a long-term committed relationship — paternity is not a given. This can become particularly problematic if the couple breaks up and the mother tries to limit the relationship between the child and the father.
If you are a dad in Florida, here are some basic facts you should know about your rights:
No. 1: You must establish paternity
The very first step to gaining child custody and visitation rights will be to establish paternity. This can be done in a number of ways, including signing a legal document when the child is born or going through genetic testing to prove paternity. Genetic testing can be done with or without a court order. The circumstances of your case will dictate how to best establish paternity.
No. 2: The role a father plays is just as important as the mother’s role
There are no laws on the books in Florida that places the importance of one parent over another. Rather, children benefit from both parents playing active roles in their lives. If you are a father who is fighting for custody or visitation rights, always keep this in mind. It is possible for a father to have a strong relationship with their children, even if he is no longer with the child’s mother. Do not give up on establishing your rights. Do not let the mother just dictate how this relationship will look.
No. 3: You need to keep up with your responsibilities
There are no two ways about it: Kids cost money. For a father who is trying to establish parental rights, it is very important to keep up with child support payments. For the courts, paying child support is yet another way to show that you are accepting responsibility for the child. If for some reason financial circumstances have changed, work with an attorney to obtain a modification to an existing order. Simply not paying is never a good idea.
At Stephen T. Holman, P.A., our attorneys handle all types of family law issues, including situations involving father’s rights. We can help guide you through the process of establishing, retaining and modifying those rights.