In Florida, children born during a marriage are treated different 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 established 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, no right to access to any information regarding this child.
As a Father, filing a paternity action as soon as possible is crucial, even if you are on good terms with the Mother of your child. Before a case is filed, your time with your child is at the whim and mercy of the child’s mother. In the event that the relationship with her either terminates to begins to not be as positive, she can easily and legally restrict your access to you child, or worse, she could move outside of the state with your child. If you have not initiated a paternity case or otherwise been established as the legal father of your child, she does not need your permission or court permission to move with your child as would be required once paternity is established.
Some Fathers are hesitant to file a paternity case while they have a positive relationship with the Mother, however it does not always have to be an emotional and contentious process. A simple agreement and court order establishing you as the legal father is all you need to establish rights to your child. Of course, a typical paternity case involves much more, and will establish what is called a Parenting Plan, however this is not required to establish your legal rights as a father. The most important thing to remember about paternity actions is that the earlier you file the case, the more protected you and your rights involving your child are.