Being the Father of a child in Florida means that you have less rights when compared to the Mother. This is the case, where you have a child with a woman and you were not married before the child was born or did not marry the mother after she gave birth.
In Florida, being listed on the child's birth certificate alone does not make you the legal father. There is a real distinction between being the legal and biological father.
Paternity is defined as the legal relationship between a child and his or her biological father. Paternity establishes rights and benefits to all those that are involved. Paternity actions are necessary to establish a legal relationship between a child born to unmarried parents and the biological father.
In Florida, it is presumed that the mother is the sole legal parent where the parents are not married at the time of birth of the child. Where the parents are married, the husband is presumed to be the legal father of the child, irrespective of whether he is the biological father. This means that if you are married and your wife has a child with someone else, you are the legal father. The court must enter a final order claiming the biological father to be the legal father so that you do not have the legal responsibility of being the child’s father.
Where the parties are not married, signing the child's birth certificate is NOT enough. A paternity action, asking that the court recognizes the legal bond between the child and the father is required. During the action, the court will establish paternity where the parents present an acknowledgment of paternity form. In the event that allegations are made that the petitioning father is not the biological father of the child, the court may order a DNA test be done.
Paternity gives both parents the legal right to: get a child support order, get a court order for visitation or custody, and have legal say in the decisions of the child. It is very in common in Florida that a parent, most often the father, be summoned to the child support division of the courts and have a child support order entered without being given the option of asking for a parenting plan. A parenting plan establishes which parent will be making important decisions of the mi
nor child and the time sharing schedule that the parents will follow. This creates a situation where the parent is legally ordered to pay child support but has no right to spending time with the child or make any decisions on their behalf.
The Florida legislature enacted a new law that went into effect on January 1, 2019. The new law allows the child support office to order a parenting plan which includes a timesharing schedule, but only if the parents agree. In the event that the parents do not agree, then the father needs to file a paternity action in family court to have rights to see the child.
Another benefit of filing a paternity action is that the mother’s ability to relocated will be restricted. If you have a paternity action pending or a final judgment for paternity, the mother is unable to relocate without your permission or a court order. In fact, the mother will not be able to relocate more than 50 miles or move to another county without proper authorization. If you do not have a paternity case pending or a final judgment of paternity, then the relocation statute does not apply. This means that the mother may relocate without any restrictions. She may relocate without your permission and without a court order.
Unfortunately, most fathers do not know their legal rights. Filing a paternity action can be in your best interest. This is especially true where you do not have a good relationship with the mother of the child or their grandparents. Having a court order detailing when you are able to spend time with the child, what major decision in the child's life that you should have a final say on, and what how you are the other parent will share expenses is extremely beneficial.