You’re a great dad, right? You and the mom were never married but you’ve both been caring, present parents since your baby was born. You have the same parenting rights as the mom, right? Wrong.
You want to see your child often? You want to be a permanent part of your child’s life?
What Exactly Are Your Rights?
This may come as a surprise to you but if you have a baby and aren’t married to the baby’s mom, and were never married with her, you may not have any legal rights as a parent. You may even be in a relationship with your child’s mom and this is still not enough. Now, if the baby’s mom can’t stand you, things can be very difficult for you.
To have the same rights as a dad that was married to the baby’s mom when the baby was born, you will need to file a Paternity action or have a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” signed by both the mom and you. There are a series of steps and procedures you need to follow for the acknowledgment to be successful.
Dads come to Pazos Law Group all the time surprised to learn that they have no enforceable rights to see their child now that the mom won’t let them. Sometimes, the relationship simply ends and the mom no longer wants the dad around the child.
Here are some questions we hear:
- Can she do that? I’ve always been in the picture as much as she has.
- Is she allowed to move to another state with our baby?
- Is she allowed to keep me from seeing the baby even though I signed the birth certificate?
The ANSWER is yes. Is it the smartest move the mom can make? Usually not. Kids normally fare better with strong connections to both parents. But it happens unfortunately. In these situations, the mom is automatically considered the parent with decision-making authority.
The best route for a dad in this situation is to file a Paternity Action as soon as possible. Do not wait! Try being actively involved from the beginning.
Once a Paternity Action is filed in Florida, you can begin working on entering into an agreement called a Parenting Plan. A parenting plan is an agreement, which sets out a visitation schedule (timesharing) between you and your child. It will give details on who will make decisions concerning the child, where the child will go to school, with whom the child will spend which holiday, etc. It’s basically your guide to when and where you will see your child.
The Florida Supreme Court has provided families with 3 different types of parenting plans to help families enter into a plan more easily. See link: http://www.flcourts.org/resources-and-services/family-courts/family-law-self-help-information/family-law-forms.stml#995.
These forms are a good starting point, however, every family is unique and has its own unique issues. What works for one family does not necessarily work for another family and the forms may not cover everything about your particular situation. Always make sure to have a family lawyer review any agreement and parenting plan before you sign it.
The main goal is always to plan for the BEST INTEREST of the CHILD. This is Florida’s goal, this should be your attorney’s goal and this is surely your goal as a parent.
Once you get this done, go ahead and enjoy fatherhood! As the famous Australian photographer Anne Geddes said, “Any man can be a Father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.”