In Florida, children born during a marriage are treated differently than those children who are born to an unmarried couple. Children born during an intact marriage are presumed to be the biological children of both the Husband and the Wife of that marriage, and legally the Husband and Wife are the Mother and Father of that child unless and until a court order states otherwise. When a child is born outside of a marriage, the biological mother is also the legal mother of that child, however the father is NOT established as the legal father unless a court order establishes the Father as the legal Father. This gives the Mother an obvious upper-hand when it comes to this child, as the Father has no rights to timesharing with the child, no right to any decision making ability or authority, and no right to access to any information regarding this child.
To some mothers, this is advantageous, as they have no interest in the Father being involved in the child’s life. However, this is also means that the Father is not under any legal obligation to support the child until something is pursued in the court system. There are laws in place that allow retroactive child support to be established obtained if and when a paternity or child support action is initiated in the future, but these laws only permit someone to go back so far. In the State of Florida, there is a public policy which encourages both parents of a child having an active role in that child‘s life and upbringing. Generally, a paternity case will result in the Father having timesharing, or visitation, with the child, in one parent having to pay child support to the other, and in the Father being permitted to have an active role in decision making and access to information regarding the child. This should not, however, be any different than what was already happening, as most courts prefer to see parents who are able to co-parent effectively instead of those who are at odds over how to raise a child. Court also prefer to see parents actively engaged in a regular timesharing schedule with one another that they were able to jointly agree upon, as parents generally know what is best for their child. Some Mothers see this as being too disruptive for a child, or have other reasons why they do not want the child’s Father to have such an active role. Generally, the public policy of having two active parents trumps a parent’s desire to have as much time and involvement as possible, as that results in limiting the time of the other parent.
Paternity cases can be extremely emotional and complicated, especially when the parents have a strained relationship. It is important to have the guidance of an experiences family law attorney who can assist you through this difficult process. If is equally as important to select an attorney with whom you feel comfortable, as this person will be responsible for assisting you in planning and scheduling your child’s life until he or she is at least 18 years old.