Is the Biological Father the Same as the Legal Father?
Paternity lawyers fight for a father’s right to be in his child’s life. Although a man may have contributed his DNA to the formation of a child with an unmarried woman, this does not always mean that he has any rights to see the child, make any decisions, or participate in the child’s upbringing. This makes him the biological father but not necessarily the legal father. The legal father has all rights and responsibilities for the child. A paternity lawsuit can help biological fathers in these types of situation gain time-sharing rights and decision making authority over the child. Things are different for married men who have children with their wives. Florida law presumes that the husband is the legal father to any child that his wife has.
Men who have Children with Unmarried Mothers Need to Take Further Steps to Have Custody of Their Children
In Florida, when an unmarried woman has a child with a man, the mother automatically has 100% custody of the child. The mother can move in-state or out-of-state with the child with no obligation to the father. She can make all decisions about the child’s health, education and well-being and exclude the father from the child’s life. To stop this, the father will have to get a court- ordered parenting plan.
If the father did not sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form at the time of the child’s birth or sometime thereafter, the unmarried mother can give up the child for adoption without any input from the father. The father’s name will be on the child’s birth certificate after he and the mother sign the paternity form and it is filed with the Florida Department of Vital Statistics. Even if the mother and father are no longer on good terms after signing and filing the paternity form, the mother cannot change her mind and take him off of the birth certificate. The father has 60 days to rescind his signature on the paternity form if he signed it due to fraud, coercion or duress.
It’s even worse for fathers whose names are not on the child’s birth certificate and who haven’t registered with the Florida Putative Father Registry. In these types of situations, the unmarried mother can give up the child for adoption and the father won’t even have a right to know about the adoption proceeding. A timely paternity lawsuit is critical for men who have fathered children with unmarried women.
How Can a Father Establish Paternity?
If a father did not establish paternity voluntarily, there are many other ways how to achieve this result:
- The mother can start a paternity lawsuit;
- The mother and the father can get married;
- Any man who believes that he is the father of the child can start a paternity lawsuit and name other men who could be the father;
- By an administrative order based on a DNA test in a Department of Revenue child support case;
- By domesticating a foreign judgment of paternity; or
- The child can start a paternity lawsuit;
Paternity is not the same as custody. If a man has successfully established himself as the child’s father, this means that a legal relationship is created between him and the child. He has a financial responsibility to provide for the child and the child has inheritance rights from his estate. He will still need a parenting plan from the court for time-sharing and decision-making authority.
Call our Paternity Lawyer to Discuss Your Unique Situation
At the Fletcher Law Office, aggressive paternity attorney, Cheryl Fletcher, makes herself available to listen to issues concerning a father’s paternity and custodial rights. She then takes this information to court and puts on the best case for you in front of the judge. Our main office is conveniently located in West Palm Beach, right of I-95 at the 45th street exit, about ½ mile behind Burger King. One-and-one consultations are also available via phone and video conference.