Fathers Have Parental Rights Too

There are many myths about child custody and one of the most pervasive is the belief that unmarried fathers have limited parental rights. Fathers have parental rights too, regardless of their relationship with their child’s mother.

Read on to learn how Fathers can preserve and enforce their parental rights.

Establishing Parental Rights

Unmarried fathers must first acknowledge their paternity. Since paternity is not determined solely by a birth certificate or blood test, a biological father runs the risk of losing his parental rights to someone else who makes the effort to become the child’s father.

Contrary to popular belief, listing a man’s name on a child’s birth certificate does not establish paternity. Paternity is the legal term identifying a child’s father, and it can be established, legally, in two different ways: voluntarily and involuntarily.

Voluntary Paternity

Voluntary paternity is not as simple and straightforward as it sounds. In Florida, voluntary paternity is assumed in many different circumstances, such as:

  • When a child is born to a married couple, the husband is voluntarily presumed the father
  • When a child is born to an unmarried couple, but the parents marry after the child’s birth and sign a legitimation form
  • When the child is born to an unmarried couple who never marry but sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or similar attorney-drafted legal agreement
  • When the father attempts to marry the mother when the child is born or conceived
  • When the father marries the mother after the child is born and agrees to have his name put on the birth certificate or agrees to support the child
  • When the father welcomes the child into his home and openly holds the child out to be his own
  • When the father and child have a close parent/child relationship and the court grants equitable parent custody rights

It’s important to note that an unmarried father must acknowledge his paternity if he wants to preserve his parental rights. Since paternity is not determined solely by a birth certificate or blood test, a biological father runs the risk of losing his parental rights to someone else who makes the effort to become the child’s father.

Involuntary Paternity

Paternity can be established involuntarily by a child’s mother or the state. If a mother or child receives public assistance from the state of Florida, either party may initiate a paternity lawsuit. In many cases, the establishment of paternity is a mandatory prerequisite for a mother or child to receive public assistance, even if the mother does not want to file a paternity lawsuit.

When a paternity lawsuit is filed, the alleged father will be required to appear in court and submit to DNA testing. Genetic blood tests can establish paternity with 99% accuracy. If paternity is established, the court will enter an order regarding the father’s paternity, and he will be required to pay child support.

Legal Consequences of Establishing Paternity:

Whether paternity is established voluntarily or involuntarily, it has several important legal consequences: child support and decision-making authority. When it comes to children, parental rights go hand-in-hand with responsibility. Both parents have a responsibility to provide financial support for their children and to make decisions on their child’s behalf.

For the father, legal paternity means he will be held accountable for his share of financial support and responsibility. If the father does not provide this support voluntarily, he can be compelled to do so by a court. Failure to pay child support, in particular, can lead to serious life-changing consequences such as wage garnishment, loss of a driver’s license, and imprisonment.

For the mother and child, legal paternity does not mean financial child support alone. Paternity entitles a father to certain decision-making authority and custody of their child unless extreme circumstances make shared custody unsafe for the child.

Parental Time-Sharing in Florida

Many fathers fear that mothers are given an advantage when it comes to custody, but Florida has changed the way custody disputes are handled with a primary focus on the rights of a child to a happy, healthy upbringing. In general, the terms “sole custody” and “shared custody” have been replaced with “time-sharing” and “responsibility-sharing” to shift focus away from the outdated concept that a particular parent should have control over a child to the new way of thinking revolves around the child’s right to have a healthy relationship with both parents.

Without special orders from a Judge, both parents of a child have time-sharing rights. If you’re a father interested in establishing or enforcing your parental rights, contact our attorneys at Campbell Law Group. We’ll help you assert your rights so you can focus on the most important part of fatherhood: building a relationship with your child.

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