Many who consult with me to handle a case for them regarding a child born out of wedlock have one particular question in common: “In Florida, does a father have the same rights as the mother regarding a child born out of wedlock?”
With the passing decades, there have been significant changes and ideological shifts involving a person’s rights and roles with regard to raising a child. The laws have likewise changed to address those shifts, and there is a legal procedure required to establish those rights in the eyes of the law as follows:
- First, a person must file a Petition with the court for a finding of fact through what is known as a “paternity action”. This action legally establishes and recognizes the biological father. Although a person may be listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate, if the parties are unmarried, he must be named as such in what is called a “Final Judgment of Paternity”.
Florida Statute 742.10 provides the law and related information regarding where jurisdiction is recognized and the related procedures required for the final determination of paternity for any child born out of wedlock. The parties can cooperate and agree on paternity recognizing the man as the true father, and based on that mutual agreement, the court can enter the required Final Judgment of Paternity. However, if either party contests, paternity must be confirmed through order of the Court for DNA testing.
- Once paternity is established by the court, the court will enter a “Parenting Plan” outlining two major components of parenting, which are “parental responsibility” and the “time-sharing schedule” for the child.
“Parental responsibility” describes who will be primarily responsible for making vital day-to-day decisions such as necessary medical attention and educational needs. Generally, parents will be awarded “shared parental responsibility” with both parents having equal rights to make decisions regarding the minor child. Each parent also has an equal right to the child’s medical and school records, and they are instructed to confer with the other before making major decisions involving the minor child.
- “Timesharing” describes when the child will be with each parent. If the parties cannot reach an agreement regarding timesharing, the court will make the determination. In making its determination for timesharing, the court uses the factors set forth and described in Florida Statute 61.13.
Both parents have a fundamental duty, responsibility and obligation to provide financial support for their child. Child-support guidelines are governed by Florida Statute 61.30 in calculating the appropriate amount of financial support each parent is to contribute. The guidelines are based primarily on the parties’ respective incomes, with consideration also given to the number of “overnights” each parent cares for the minor child within a year’s time-frame as outlined in the “timesharing arrangement”. If both parents earn approximately the same income and are able to logistically and reasonably reach a 50/50 timesharing agreement, then the child support obligations for each parent would be the same, and neither would be required to pay monthly child-support to the other. Of course, there are other factors to be considered in calculating child-support such as whether one parent is able to or is providing health insurance for the child as well as day-care expenses.
At the Cox Law Firm, attorney Benjamin J. Cox can consult with you and provide you with his 33+ years of experience.
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