Most people, at one time in their life, have heard the common playground song, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage,” but what happens when that isn’t the order? It is becoming more and more common for couples to have children outside of marriage, and this can negatively affect your rights to see your child.
As a mother, rights to make decisions for the child and the determination of parentage are apparent at the hospital; the same is not true for the father. Many of our clients are shocked to find out that as a father who is not married to the mother of their child, they have no rights until they are established. This means that the mother of your child could move to another city or state with your child and you have no say until you have an order establishing your rights.
In Florida, fathers can file an acknowledgment of paternity, which can establish paternity, but it does not grant any rights to custody or decision making for the child. To obtain these rights, a father must file a Petition for Paternity. Once a Petition for Paternity is successfully filed, served, and litigated, the Father’s rights to their child are established. He can potentially stop the mother of his child from leaving the state with their child, participate in decisions affecting their child, and if the mother fails to follow the time sharing that is ordered, has rights to compel the child’s mother to follow the court order.
The best time to file the petition is when you have a working relationship with the child’s mother and know where she and your child are residing because the mother must be served personally. This way you can easily make an agreement with the mother and you aren’t searching for her or forced to rush to the courthouse to file. Many fathers run into problems and end up in an attorney’s office only after the mother of their child has refused to allow them to see their child or has left the area.
It is never too late to file a Petition to Establish Paternity, but waiting until after things take a bad turn can make it harder to establish your rights. If you file a petition after the mother has moved with the child, you may have to refile where she lives depending on how long she has lived there with the child. Also, you cannot limit her ability to move until after you have an order in place so if she is already out of the area when you file the case you cannot force her to move back.
If you have questions about establishing paternity, or family law in general, please call Treasure Coast Legal at 772-283-2626 or visit us online at TreasureCoastLegal.com.
By Katherine Mish, Esq. of Treasure Coast Legal
Treasure Coast Legal offers representation in a wide variety of practice areas and is the first place to call with your legal needs. Contact us today for more information by calling 772-283-2626 or visit us online at TreasureCoastLegal.com.
Shaun T. Plymale, Esq.
Treasure Coast Legal
100 SW Albany Ave. Suite 310