How Can I Pursue Custodial Rights to My Child As An Unwed Father in Florida?
When divorcing couples share minor children, important issues like child custody and child support take center stage.
But what happens when the parents of minor children were never married?
Can unwed fathers gain custody of their child when their relationship with the other parent dissolves? What if the father never had a serious relationship with the mother? What are the father’s rights then?
Our Stuart family law attorney understands that parents’ relationships do not always take a traditional, marital path, but we are certain that should never affect neither the parents nor the children’s rights to be connected.
If you believe you are the father of a child in Florida and are interested in learning more about your rights, there are several steps you can take to begin the process of becoming a formidable figure in your child’s life.
First, You Must Establish a Paternity
If you were not married to the mother of the child at the time of his/her birth, nor directly signed the birth certificate, either at the time of birth or after, you must establish paternity to pursue your legal rights to access the child.
That may occur through one of the following actions:
- Submit a sample for a volunteer DNA test, when the mother is willing to produce the child for comparison
- Petition a judge for a court order establishing confirmation of fatherhood
- Marrying the mother, and updating the child’s birth record with the Florida Office of Vital Statistics
Since the State of Florida is dedicated to ensuring both parents are involved in their children’s lives, our paternity attorney will walk you through the legal steps to establish fatherhood before pursuing visitation, custody, or both once we receive confirmation that you are, in fact, the child’s dad.
Next, Talk to a Child Custody Attorney in Stuart, Florida About Your Rights.
Once paternity is established, you may petition our Florida Family Court for visitation, custody, or both with the help of our family law attorney.
Visitation requests allow you to share parenting time with the mother through overnight stays, weekend visits, and may grant extended access to the child for vacations or during school breaks.
Custody is very different than visitation, as it creates a legal relationship that establishes who is in control of the child’s care and maintenance.
Child custody may unfold in many ways in Florida, including:
- Legal Custody
Legal custody allows a parent to make life decisions, including where the kids go to school and what religion they observe.
- Physical Custody
Physical custody establishes where the child lives and can be established as sole custody with a single parent caring for the child full time, or through shared parenting plans called joint custody, where each parent splits the custodial duties between their two homes.
What If I Am Seeking Custody of My Child(ren) Because the Mother Cannot Properly Care for Them?
If the mother is incapable of properly caring for your child(ren), either because of unfit behavior, drug or alcohol dependency, incarceration, or because of neglect or abuse cases that have been reported to Florida’s Department of Children and Families, our family lawyer will use the facts of your case as a foundation for pursuing child custody.
If you want to pursue your rights as an unmarried father in Florida, contact our experienced child custody attorney in Stuart today by calling (772) 934-6007 to discuss your case during a free consultation.