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Paternity and Timesharing

If I’m the biological Father of a minor child born out of wedlock, am I entitled to timesharing and/or custody of the child immediately after I sign the birth certificate?

Not necessarily.

According to Florida law, the Mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child. In this scenario, the Mother is entitled to the residential care and custody of the minor child, unless a court of competent jurisdiction enters an order stating otherwise. Fla. Stat. 744.301(1). The concept of shared parental responsibility under Chapter 61 does not apply until an order is entered by the Court that finds that paternity has been established by law.

In this case, if the Father wishes to have Shared Parental Responsibility and a timesharing schedule with the child that is enforceable by a court of law, he should file a paternity action in family court and establish legal paternity and a timesharing plan, or if the Mother is agreeable, he may enter into a joint stipulation of paternity executed by both parties, and enter into a parenting plan agreement having both documents (the paternity stipulation and parenting plan) ratified by the Court.

A common scenario is when the unwed Mother and unwed Father verbally agree to a timesharing plan with the minor child and “play it by ear” for several years. Although the Father is on the birth certificate and the Mother acknowledges the Father as the child’s biological father, the Father does not have the legal right to enforce the timesharing plan until his paternity is legally established by a Court. For example, if the Mother says one day out of the blue, “I don’t like this timesharing schedule anymore and I’m going to change it” or “I’m moving to another State”, the Father’s options may be minimal unless paternity has been legally established and the Court has awarded the Father shared parental responsibility and timesharing rights. Simply put, neither the courts nor law enforcement can assist with the enforcement of the Father’s timesharing rights if no court order awarding shared parental responsibility and timesharing exists.

The issue of paternity becomes even more complex if the Mother is married to another man. In such a scenario, if the unwed Father believes he is the biological Father of the child, he cannot move forward with a paternity where the married woman and husband object to the paternity action.

For more detailed information contact an attorney in your area for a consultation

The Law Offices of Patricia Palma, P.A. represents Gulf Coast clients in divorce and child custody matters. Please call 813-258-3211 or contact us online to schedule an appointment at our office in Tampa. The information in this Blog is not legal advice. Legal Advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Therefore, the information in this Blog cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your state.

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