Florida’s New Paternity Law
In most states, when two people share a child, but aren’t married, the father must typically file a paternity action followed by separate custody proceedings in order to obtain parental rights. Until a recent change in the law, Florida numbered itself among these states. Since July, however, Florida residents have been governed by a new paternity law that allows fathers to avoid having to engage in separate custody proceedings if both parents sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. Read on to learn more about Florida’s new paternity law and how it could affect your own parental rights and obligations.
Automatic Parental Rights
Before the passage of the new paternity law, mothers were automatically deemed to be the default custodial parent of a child shared with a partner to whom they weren’t married. After going through separate legal proceedings to establish paternity, parents would then have to engage in custody proceedings to establish a time-sharing schedule. Under the new law, as long as both parents sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, the father will automatically receive parental rights that formerly went only to the child’s mother. This means that when paternity has been established, the father:
- Has the right to visitation;
- Has the right to make decisions for the child; and
- Has an obligation to financially support the child.
The extent of these rights will initially be undefined, which means that the parents will need to reach an out-of-court agreement regarding the specifics of child support and visitation. It is only when an agreement cannot be reached that a court will need to step in and make a decision on the parties’ behalf.
How to Voluntarily Acknowledge Paternity in Florida
Under the new Florida law, a father will still only be granted parental rights (when not married to the child’s mother) when both he and the child’s mother voluntarily acknowledge paternity. This in turn, requires compliance with specific procedures. Basically, after the child’s birth and any time until he or she reaches the age of 18 years old, the mother and father can establish paternity by filling out and signing the Acknowledgement of Paternity form in the presence of a notary public or two witnesses. Once completed, the form will need to be mailed to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics, after which the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate. This method of establishing paternity is not, however, available when a mother was married to someone else at the time of the child’s birth. Feel free to reach out to our legal team for help establishing paternity of your child.
Speak with an Experienced Clearwater Paternity Lawyer Today
To learn more about how Florida’s new paternity law could affect your own parental rights and obligations, please call the experienced Clearwater paternity lawyers at Cairns Law today. You can set up a consultation with us by calling our office at 727-683-1472 or by sending us an online message. We are available for both evening and weekend appointments.