If you are an unwed parent in Florida, it is important to understand how child custody works. Unlike married parents, who have a presumption of joint custody, unmarried parents do not have such protections. This can make settling on custody and parenting time arrangements much more difficult for unmarried parents.
It is important to understand your rights and the process involved in obtaining child custody. The good news is that Florida has relatively progressive custody laws that take into account both parents’ roles in the child’s life.
This post will explore how unmarried parents in Florida typically figure out child custody and parenting time arrangements. We will also discuss some of the factors that courts may consider when making these determinations.
What Is Child Custody and How Is It Determined in Florida Law?
Under Florida law, there are two types of custody: legal and physical. In many cases, parents can come to an agreement on their own about how they can handle both. However, if they cannot reach an agreement, the court will decide (based on what is in the child’s best interests, of course).
In Florida, legal custody of a child is defined as the right and duty to make decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare. There are two types of legal custody: sole and joint.
Sole legal custody, also called Sole Parental Responsibility, means that only one parent has the right to decide on the child’s care. Joint legal custody, however, means that both parents are responsible for making decisions about the child’s welfare.
In most cases, courts will award joint legal custody, also called Shared Parental Responsibility, unless there is evidence that one parent is unfit or incapable of making decisions in the child’s best interests.
When awarding custody, courts will consider various factors, including the child’s age, the parent’s relationship, and each parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment.
Ultimately, the court’s goal is to ensure that the child has a safe and loving home where their needs can be met.
Physical custody is the legal term used to describe where a child will live. If one parent has primary physical custody, the child will reside with them most of the time.
The other parent typically has visitation rights, called timesharing, and may even have joint physical custody, which means they share equally in the decision-making process, and the child resides with both parents.
In some cases, a grandparent or other relative may have physical custody if it is determined to be in the child’s best interests. Ultimately, the court will decide based on the case’s facts.
When making a determination, the court will consider factors such as each parent’s employment schedule, living situation, and relationship with the child. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure the child has a safe and healthy home life.
How Does Visitation Work for Unwed Parents in Florida?
In Florida, visitation for unwed parents works differently than for divorced or separated parents. If the parents were never married to each other, the father does not have any legal rights to visitation with his children unless a court order has granted those rights.
To receive visitation rights, the father must petition the court to establish a timesharing schedule that is in the child’s best interests.
The visitation schedule should be flexible enough to accommodate changes in the parents’ schedules. If one parent works odd hours or frequently travels for work, the visitation schedule should reflect that.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a visitation schedule that is fair to both parents and allows them to spend quality time with their children.
If you are an unwed parent in Florida seeking visitation with your child, it is important to speak to an experienced child custody attorney. They can help you navigate the process and ensure that your rights are protected.
How Do Unmarried Parents Establish Paternity in Florida?
In Florida, there are two ways to establish paternity: through a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or a court order.
Through Voluntary Acknowledgement
This method involves both parents signing a legal document, the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form, that states they are the child’s biological parents. This form is available at hospitals, birthing centers, and Florida Vital Statistics offices.
You’ll also find it on the Florida Department of Health website. The VAP must be signed by both parents and witnessed by two people over 18. Once the form is signed, it is filed with the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics.
The VAP establishes paternity without the need for a DNA test or a court order. However, if either parent later questions the child’s paternity, a DNA test can be ordered to confirm the father’s identity.
In addition, either parent has the right to rescind the VAP within 60 days of signing it. After that period has passed, the VAP can only be challenged in court if there is evidence of fraud or coercion.
As such, the VAP is a convenient and efficient way for unmarried parents to establish paternity in Florida. However, it is important to understand that it is not an irrevocable decision, and either parent can change their mind within the first 60 days of signing. Also, VAP only establishes paternity and not any time sharing or decision-making rights for the child(ren).
Through a Court Order
In Florida, unmarried parents can establish paternity through a court order. This process typically starts with the filing of a petition by either parent.
Once the petition is filed, the court will order genetic testing to determine if the alleged father is the child’s biological father. If the test results are positive, the court will issue an order of paternity, legally establishing the father’s relationship with the child.
Once paternity is established, the father will be responsible for child support and have certain visitation and custody rights. Establishing paternity can be crucial in ensuring that children have access to financial and emotional support from both parents.
How Does Child Support Work for Unmarried Parents in Florida? How Is It Calculated?
Child support rulings are determined independently of child custody rulings. If both parents are listed on a child’s birth certificate, they are subject to the same legal process for child support as previously married parents.
The gross income and expenses of each parent, as well as Florida’s Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, are used to determine how much each spouse must contribute each month. The State of Florida imposes harsh penalties on parents who fail to pay the correct amount of child support or fail to pay it on time.
Even if the mother does not seek child support from her children’s father, the court may still seek child support if the woman files for federal aid. Applications for such services (e.g welfare, Medicaid, etc.) demand information regarding the father of her child or children and the application will be dismissed if the mother ignores the questions or answers dishonestly.
What if One Parent Has Already Taken the Child?
Florida law is very specific when it comes to child custody. If one parent has already taken the child, the other parent may not be able to get them back without going through the legal system. This can be lengthy and expensive, so it is always best to try and work out an agreement between the two parents before taking any legal action.
The first step is to file a petition for the return of a child with the court. This document asks the court to order the return of the child. The next step is to serve the other parent with the petition and a notice of hearing.
The notice must be served at least five days before the hearing. At the hearing, both parents will have a chance to explain their side of the story. After listening to both sides, the court will make a decision about whether or not to grant the petition and order the return of the child.
The court will also consider whether it is in the child’s best interests to remain with one parent or be returned to both parents. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible to protect your rights.
Consult us about Unwed Parents’ Custody Laws in Florida
Going through a breakup is hard enough, but when you have to tackle child custody proceedings on top of it, things can get really complicated really fast. If you and your ex are unmarried parents in Florida and you are facing a child support battle, it is important to have an experienced child custody attorney on your side.
At Griffin Family Law, PLLC, we understand how terrifying and stressful this time can be, and we will work tirelessly to protect your rights and attempt to secure the most favorable outcome for you and your loved ones.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our experienced child custody attorneys. We can help you understand your rights and options under the law and work with you to create a parenting plan that is in your child’s best interests.