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Florida Fathers' Rights Laws - Child Support, Custody, Divorce

Posted by Lisa Vari

Florida’s Fathers’ Rights

Florida laws go far in protecting the rights of the minor children to have a healthy relationship with both their father and mother. However, a Florida father must take affirmative action if his rights are to be protected under Florida law. If a Florida father chooses to do nothing to protect his rights to his children and his right to a solid financial future after divorce or separation from the other parent, then the Florida father has no one to blame except himself!

Florida Father’s Paternity Rights

Section 382.013(2)(a) of the Florida Statutes indicates if the mother is not married at the time of the child’s birth, the name of the putative father may not be entered on the child’s birth certificate unless an affidavit is signed by both the mother and the person to be named the father. An unmarried biological father may file a notarized claim of paternity form with the Florida Putative Father Registry of the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health if he wishes to be notified of any adoption or dependency actions. If an unmarried biological father fails to take action or delays in taking action to establish his legal relationship to his child, his parental interest may be lost or greatly impacted his inaction or delay.

If the mother of a child has not taken action to establish paternity of a child, the man who believes he is the biological father of a child has a right to file a court action to have his paternity established through paternity testing. Paternity must be established by operation of law, agreement of the parties, or order of court before a father can seek to establish custody rights.

Florida Father’s Custody Rights

As stated in the history of custody laws section of this website, early custody laws favored primarily the father and then later changed to favoring primarily the mother. The good news for Florida’s fathers and children is that currently under Florida law there is no presumptions in favor of either parent with regard to custody and time-sharing rights; both parents stand on equal footing and a parenting plan is devised solely on the basis of what type of schedule works best for the children.

In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings state that “[i]t is no longer the default assumption that child custody proceedings will produce the classic paradigm of sole custodian versus visiting parent. Many states recognize some form of joint or shared custody that affirms the decision-making and care-taking status of more than one adult." Most child psychologists now agree that the best time-sharing plan for children involves some form of shared custody wherein the children receive the emotional and financial support of both parents and the parents feel that they have an active role in their children’s lives.

So, what can a Florida father do to maximize his time with his children following a separation or divorce? First, retain an experienced Florida fathers’ rights lawyer. Choose a new residence that is within the same school district as the children currently attend. Make certain that the new home is large enough to accommodate the children when they will be living there with you. Adjust your work schedule to permit you to spend significant time with the children. Make plans to take the children to school and pick them up afterwards or arrange for daycare for times when they will be with you. Be active with your children’s school, medical and dental care, and activities. Plan to be an active participant in your children’s lives. Be a parent, not a friend. Do not talk to your children about legal proceedings, court orders, or your ill feelings towards the other parent. Do not use your children to convey messages to the other parent. Be flexible with the other parent regarding changes in the time-sharing parenting plan. Keep the other parent informed about information you learn during your time with the children. Be cordial to the other parent and any new relationship that they may develop. Always reassure the children that you and their mother love them very much!

In addition to recent changes regarding time-sharing, Florida laws were also modified in 2008 to further protect a Father’s rights regarding decision-making. The new Florida custody laws created shared parental responsibility so all major decisions regarding the children’s education, health care, activities, religion, and otherwise must be made jointly unless it is proven that there is a significant reason why the parents can not jointly make decisions.

The reality is that the changes in Florida’s laws are truly designed to protect the best interests of the children in placing both parents on an equal footing and allowing the realities of the children’s schedules, both parent’s schedules, and logistics dictate the time-sharing parenting plan that will be implemented for the family. With the addition of shared parental responsibility to Florida’s laws, a father can have a very substantial role in his children’s lives following separation or divorce if he is willing to make the sacrifices to do so and work with an experienced Miami father’s rights custody lawyer to negotiate an agreement for a proper time-sharing parenting plan. And, if an agreement can not be reached, Dade and Broward County fathers must be willing to hire an experienced Miami father’s rights custody attorney and fight for their rights perhaps in a family court contested time-sharing trial.

South Florida Father’s Child Support Rights

Our South Florida father’s rights law firm believe that it is the children’s right to have the emotional and financial support of both parents. What this means is that we believe that each Florida parent should be left with sufficient income and assets following a divorce or separation such that they will be able to adequately provide for the needs of the minor children while the children are in that parent’s home.

Recently, the Florida statutes have been amended to indicate that if a parent who owes child support exercises more than 20 percent of the overnights in a calendar year with the children that parent is entitled to request a reduction in the amount of their child support. This new amendment to Florida law significantly helps protect the rights of Florida fathers to have enough income in their household to provide for the needs of the minor children while exercising their time-sharing custody schedule!

Besides implications upon child support, the amount of time that each parent spends with their children can also impact Florida property distribution orders. Under Florida law, the family court can consider whether it is in the best interest to maintain the marital home for the benefit of the minor children and therefore award it temporarily or permanently to either parent in the equitable distribution process. If the parents are exercising joint time-sharing rights, the husband in a property distribution case request that he be awarded the marital home if he is in a better financial position to maintain the marital property for the benefit of the children following the divorce. Ft. Lauderdale and Miami fathers should be aware of this important factor in equitable distribution and child custody cases in Broward County and Dade County.

Vari & Associates, LLC.

The foregoing legal guide is intended to advise and not inform readers about Florida family laws. The guide was authored by Attorney Lisa Marie Vari of the Miami, FL family law firm of Vari & Associates, LLC.

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