Paternity Law - Unmarried Fathers Have no Rights in Florida!
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.
I have had several clients attempting to change the names of their children. It is usually the mother calling, trying to change the child's last name from the father's last name to the mother's last name. There are some issues in this area of family law that should be kept in mind.
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".