How to get full Custody of their children is a topic of conversation I have multiple times each week with unmarried moms who want to know their rights. This article is intended to educate these moms. Before I get started, please note that the world of family law is VERY fact specific. It is important that you contact a lawyer for advice. If you are in Broward County, or Miami Dade County, we would be happy to provide you a free consultation on these issues.
If you are an unmarried mother in Florida and you have NEVER been to Court regarding your child, then you have now, without needing anything else, Sole Parental Responsibility and all time-sharing rights to your child - this is Florida's way of saying, sole custody. This is determined by Florida's Natural Guardian Statute, Statute 744.301. It states that "The mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child and is entitled to primary residential care and custody of the child unless the court enters an order stating otherwise." This means in everyday life you do not need to consult with your child's father about decision-making and you have ALL of the power to decide where you child goes, who he sees and where he spends his time. Having said that, there are some catches.
First, if and when the father goes to court to establish paternity and seek rights to the child, it is very likely that he will be successful. Further, because of the system for determining child support in Florida, a parent who has time-sharing rights may be able to reduce their child support obligation, so it is rather likely that this could highly influence a father to attempt to establish time sharing rights. Second, if there is no court order in place, you are at risk of the other parent failing to return the child when expected and requiring police and lawyer involvement in order to obtain a pick-up order to have your child returned. Because of this, I sometimes recommended that a mother file the paternity action, herself, in some instances where the mother wants the father to be involved, but needs a set a formal schedule.
Finally, Just because the father has not established himself with rights legally through the court, does not mean, that your failure to allow him any access to your child will not come back to bite you in the end. Denying him a relationship, with that child, without good causes qcould ultimately influence the Judge against you in the future.