Being a father is one of the most important roles a man can play. It is a fulfilling experience that comes with a price. Fatherhood involves a set of rights and obligations regarding the child.
In Florida, determining the legal father is possible through legal action called paternity. Both father and mother have an interest in determining paternity. For unmarried fathers, filing paternity action and establishing their legal status means participating in a time-sharing schedule with the child, setting up a parenting plan, and gaining access to their child.
In practice, judges in Florida award mothers and fathers an equal share of parenting time unless there is a reason for a different schedule that is best for the child. Establishing paternity is necessary for gaining 50 percent of the time with your child. Without filing a paternity action, fathers cannot protect their rights and enjoy the time looking their children grow up.
Parenting plans in Florida deal with decision-making and sharing parental responsibility. Divorced parents have the right to decide consensually regarding the upbringing of their children. Sometimes parents share parental responsibility, but only one parent gets the decision-making authority. In other cases, the court can grant parental responsibility only to one parent. Without establishing paternity, the father would have been unable to participate in parenting plans and protect their legal rights as one of the parents.
Gaining access to the child is an equally vital paternal right. Unmarried couples can get a child and then end their relationship. Unless they file a paternity action, fathers would be left without access to their child if the mother decides to move a child to another state. Therefore, protecting your paternity rights makes a difference between enjoying time with your children and their childhood without a father figure.
On the other hand, the mother also has a right to file a petition to establish paternity. That is the only way mothers can receive child support from a divorced (or unmarried) father. According to Florida law, the mother can file a petition while the child is a minor, collecting child support retroactively (for 24 months).
The Florida Statute 742.18 deals with de-establishing paternity. If you find out you are not the biological father, you can file a petition to de-establish paternity asking to be relieved from paternal rights and responsibilities.
Scott A. Levine knows how important a father figure is. He can help you establish the paternal legal status, with all rights and responsibilities, so your child can grow up looking up to you.
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