Your Right to Your Child
For many parents, there is nothing more painful than a barrier to your relationship with your child. You may feel powerless, confused, and afraid to act without understanding your rights. We can help.
Many times men are most confused about their legal rights and responsibilities as fathers. If you were not married to the mother, and no court has previously determined you are the legal father of a child, you will likely need to establish paternity before exercising legal rights to your child. This is an important step, as many men do not think about going to court for their children until a relationship goes south. Paternity is established through a Petition to Determine Paternity. In many cases, a DNA test is not necessary, but each situation is different, and a DNA test could be ordered.
Once a court determines legal paternity, a father can seek time-sharing and address child support. It is important to note that a Petition for Paternity will most likely result in a child support order, and that is something a parent should be prepared for, prior to seeking relief from the court.
An attorney can help explain the legal process, and also help to prepare you for the likely outcomes in a support/custody matter, so that you may strategically plan for a future that is best for you and your child.
Mothers, in general, start with a strategic advantage in custody matters in that they most likely carried and gave birth to the children at issue. As a result, mothers need not establish paternity (or, in this case, “maternity”) for themselves in family court. In fact, a woman who is not married at the time she gives birth, under statute has all of the legal rights and total control of the child, until a court determines otherwise. As a result, most women who file suit against the father of their child in family court are doing so to seek child support.
The mother would also begin with a Petition to Establish Paternity, followed by requests for relief, including a time-sharing plan and child support order. It is important to remember that in filing these types of actions, you may be opening the door for the father to seek 50/50 time-sharing (which is also likely to affect the amount of child support you receive). It can be helpful to speak to an attorney prior to filing paperwork in family court, to ensure you understand all of your options and the possible consequences, so that you may make the best decision for you and your child.
Temporary Custody - Extended Family Member
Under Florida Law, extended family members can petition the court for temporary custody of a child. Although typically no person, including a grandparent, has a legal right to a child if they are not the legal parent, this law allows relatives to petition the court for temporary custody if:
They are a relative to the child within third-degree by blood or marriage or a stepparent of the child
They are currently living with the child and serving as the parent or the parents consent
If you have a family member seeking temporary custody, it is important to consult with an attorney to ensure you understand the potential consequences of this legal action. Although many families initially agree to these kinds of arrangements for different reasons, conflicts often arise where the family members do not want to return the child to the parent(s) when they are ready. This can lead to stress, family conflict, and long and potentially expensive legal battles.