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New Florida Law Enhances Unwed Father’s Rights


A new law went into effect on July 1, 2023. The law creates a revised procedure for unwed fathers to establish paternity, child support, and visitation. The result is that unwed fathers can now establish parental rights that were previously the exclusive domain of the mother. Under the previous rules, an unwed father would often find themselves without clearly defined parenting rights. Under the new law, once paternity is established, the father enjoys full parental rights.

Under the previous rules, the mother of a child who was born out of wedlock was deemed to be the natural guardian of the child. This entitled her to primary residential care and custody of the child unless a court entered an order stating otherwise. This meant that the father had to establish paternity before petitioning the court to determine parental responsibility and timesharing. This process left fathers without any parental rights to the child even in cases where both parents acknowledged that he was the biological father. Shared parental responsibility did not become effective until there was a court order.

Analyzing the new law 

The new law, known as Shared Parental Responsibility after Establishment of Paternity, makes major changes to how Florida affords fathers rights in the event that an unwed couple has a baby. After the birth of a child, either parent is allowed to request a determination of parental responsibility and child support alongside the creation of a parenting plan and timesharing schedule. This means that unwed fathers no longer have to go through the difficult process of securing their parental rights over a child who is born out of wedlock.

Under the new law, in an action to establish paternity, the court is now required to simultaneously determine parental responsibility, create a parenting plan, and establish a timesharing schedule, in addition to issuing an order to determine child support payments. This streamlines the process for prospective fathers and ensures that both parent’s rights and responsibilities are addressed at the same time.

The new law also establishes that both unwed mothers and unwed fathers are the natural guardians of a child born out of wedlock. As such, they share equal rights and responsibilities associated with the raising of the child. This means that fathers now have equal parenting rights over their children from the moment that they are born.

Traditionally, the law favored mothers in timesharing agreements as courts would have an incentive to maintain the status quo when a child was in a stable living environment. Because fathers had to go through a separate effort to establish their parental rights, the mother would have already established a stable living environment with the child. Courts would be cautious about changing a situation that was already working for the child. The new law helps fathers build a foundation with their child and establish their own status quo.

Talk to an Orlando, FL Family Law Attorney Today 

Want to establish paternity? Call the Orlando family lawyers at Greater Orlando Family Law today to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing how you can assert your parental rights immediately.



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