Can my son's mother keep me from seeing him? We were never married but he has my last name and my name is on the birth certificate. We have lived together since before he was born and he is 8 now. I have said that I want to separate from her and she has threatened to keep our son from me. I have always been there for my son, financially and otherwise, and have every intention of continuing to be in his life. I don't intend to fight for sole custody as I believe our son should be with his mother (she is a good mother) but would like partial. What, if any, rights do I have considering we are not married? I appreciate any help on this matter.
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
In Florida, a Father has equal rights with the Mother regarding time sharing and contact with their minor children. However, while your name being on the birth certificate creates a presumption that you are the biological father of the minor child, your rights will not technically "vest" until paternity is established by a Judge. This would be done through the filing of a Petition for Determination of Paternity and Related Relief. Once the Judge establishes that you are the legal and biological father of the child (either through consent and agreement of the Mother or via a DNA test if she disputes the paternity), then a time sharing and contact schedule (visitation) would be established, as well as the appropriate child support based on that time sharing schedule. Unless some sort of good cause and evidence exists that regular and frequent contact with your son is not in your son's best interest, then there is no reason why you should not be able to have regular and frequent timesharing, including overnights, with your son. However, technically, until the Court establishes you as the biological Father, she is within her rights to deny you contact with your son (because your legal rights have not yet been established). Of course, unreasonable denial will not look favorable to the Judge (for her) in a subsequent paternity action, should you file one.
Family Law Attorney
Generally speaking, when a man's name is on a birth certificate it creates a legal presumption of paternity. If an unwed father has a fear that his rights may not be protected in the event of a separation then he should file a Petition to establish paternity and related relief with the court. This process will establish the legal relationship, rights and responsibilities of all parties involved and protect against the unlawful deprivation of rights.