The law in Florida has, until recently, been that incarnation is deemed voluntary on the part of the incarnated parent and therefore not a basis for modification of child support. However, the Obama administration may change that as soon as 2017 by reclassify incarceration as "involuntary". This may give incarcerated parents new options in terms of protecting themselves from exiting jail with extremely high child support arrears, which theoretically could end them back in jail and at best leaves these parents with insurmountable debt that they likely can never pay off. It also can leave these parents with a suspended driver's license and a revoked passport.
This post is a follow up to an earlier post which began to explore this topic. It is difficult to understand, and maybe more difficult to explain, what rights a father has to his child after he executes an Acknowledgment of Paternity form and before he gains "custody" rights in Court. What rights could a father have if they do not include the rights to either see the child (time-sharing) or make decisions for the child (parental responsibility)?
Before we get started it is important to know that I am confused and so are most attorneys, many Judges and basically all non-legal lay people about Paternity law in Florida. So, this blog and the one to follow may create more questions than answers, but hopefully, brings some level of enlightenment to this complicated and bizarre area of law.
Under Florida Statute 744.301 a Mother of a child born out of wedlock (unmarried) is the natural guardian of the child. As such, she has ALL of the rights to that child. NOTHING changes this as a fact for unmarried dads EXCEPT filing a Petition for Paternity and requesting that the Court grants you Parental Responsibility (decision making rights) and Timesharing ("custody"). The name of the Petition - Petition for Paternity - is confusing. It leads dad's - and moms - to believe that it is related to DNA testing or who the biological dad is. This is not an accurate understanding - we simply call "custody" actions for unmarried couples "paternity actions".