Florida law has not as yet caught up to the realities of families in today’s world.
In particular when it comes to father’s rights.
When a child(ren) is born outside of wedlock the father must take affirmative action to protect his parental rights. One option is to marry the mother. By so doing the child becomes a “child of the marriage” and the father and mother would have equal rights as to custody of the child from the commencement of any separation. Likewise, if you subsequently file for divorce, at least in the 19th circuit where I practice, the mother would be prohibited from leaving the circuit with the child(ren).
A second option is to file a paternity action. The purpose of a paternity action is to make you the father, as a matter of law. This prevents the mom from putting the child(ren) up for adoption without your consent or taking other action to terminate or limit you parental rights. However, because you are not married to the mother you have no legal rights until a court/Judge says you do. Nonetheless, when you are in front of the judge the fact that you are the dad versus the mom should not be a factor in deciding what time-sharing arrangement should be ordered by the court.
A third option provides some protection but not as much as the two prior options – that is to file with the putative father registry. This is an affidavit that states you believe you are the father of an unborn child and you agree to take on the parental responsibility associated with being a father. This should prevent the mother from putting the child up for adoption without consent.
The final situation is when you have a child with a married woman. This is an extremely complex area of family law with apparently conflicting results. Bottom line is until otherwise established the Husband is the “legal father” of a child born or conceived during wedlock. Whether you will be able to challenge this will depend on the unique facts of your case.
’till next time this has been,
Chet E. Weinbaum J.D.
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