If you are a father going through a divorce in Florida, one of your biggest concerns might be that you will not be able to spend a lot of time with your child. While almost all parents do lose some time spent with their children after a divorce, rest assured knowing that there are specific laws in place to help ensure your fathers rights in Florida are protected.
The family court system in Florida and in other states recognizes that fathers are just as important as mothers when it comes to raising well-adjusted, healthy children. You might assume that you are not legally entitled to specific fathers rights in Florida, if at all, but nothing could be further from the truth. Here is what the law has to say about fathers rights in Florida, as well as some information on how this will look in real life as you strive to find your “new normal” with your child after your divorce.
You Are Presumed to Be the Father (Sometimes)
In Florida, a man married to a woman who has given birth is presumed to be the father of that child. Is you are getting divorced, so long as you were married to your child’s mother at the time of birth, proof of paternity is not needed. If your child is adopted and you are listed as the adoptive father, then you have biological father rights and no further proof is needed other than the adoption paperwork. If you were not married to your child’s mother at the time of birth, you are recognized as the father if:
- You signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity while in the hospital.
- Later updated the birth record after getting married.
If neither of these situations happened, though, you will need to sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity to start the process. If your ex disputes the claim, then you may be required to provide DNA paternity test results. Either way, you will need to formalize your relationship with your child before you can assert your rights as a father.
Your Fathers Rights in Florida Includes Shared Custody
As long as you and your child’s other parent are both fit parents (which means that you are both capable of keeping your child safe and raising him or her), chances are very good that you will share both legal and physical custody. This means that both of you will be able to make decisions for your child, and both of you will have time with your child in your own homes. This does not necessarily mean that the time in both homes will be exactly 50/50, though laws protect this option for fathers rights in Florida.
There is also the option for rotating physical custody, which means that the child will live with each parent for six months per year. At one time, mothers were nearly automatically granted custody of their children, and fathers were allowed visitation. Nowadays, however, shared custody is much more common. There are circumstances that could make your case different, though. If either you or your ex is deemed by a judge to be unable to properly care for your child, then the other parent might get sole custody.
The noncustodial parent will likely have some form of visitation, either unsupervised or supervised. If you are granted visitation, including supervised visitation, this does not mean that the situation is permanent. The judge will let you know if you can make changes that will qualify you for unsupervised visitation or shared custody in the future. Spending whatever time you can with your child will help you build and maintain a relationship that will last a lifetime, so be sure to always show up for your shared parenting time or visitation even if you are fighting for more time or a more equitable arrangement.
You Can Participate in Creating a Parenting Plan
A parenting plan spells out how parenting will look after your divorce. It will outline who will have the child on which days, including where the child will spend holidays. It will also touch on which decisions need to be made by consensus. For example, in most cases, one parent cannot simply pull a child out of their school and place them in another school without the other parent being notified and/or agreeing. It will also include what to do if your child needs medical or dental care.
For example, you might need to consult with your child’s other parent and come to an agreement before taking your child to have braces put on his or her teeth, but not before going to the emergency room in the middle of the night for an episode of severe vomiting. Usually, parents can work together to create a parenting plan that works for both of them and, most importantly, the child. Your child’s other parent does not get to call all of the shots, and neither do you. A legal resource group can help you navigate matters; in some cases, mediation can help.
You Can File for Custody Modification
If your situation changes and you need a modification to the custody order, the child support arrangement, or the visitation schedule, you have the right to ask for a change. Often, the easiest course of action is to simply talk to your child’s other parent and see if you can come up with a new agreement. You can then have it approved by the court. If you and your ex are having trouble coming up with a solution, turning to outside help may be necessary and/or required.
Consulting an attorney is one option, albeit expensive, however, If you cannot afford one or prefer to represent yourself in court, you can seek the services of a legal resource group. From child custody and visitation to parenting plan modifications, National Family Solutions can help you establish your fathers rights in Florida.