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Child Custody Issues Faced by Unmarried Parents


In Florida, just because a couple is unmarried does not mean that they are not required to come up with a custody or child support arrangement in the event of a separation. In fact, unmarried parents often face additional hurdles if the name of the child’s father is not on the birth certificate. In these situations, it will be necessary to establish paternity before a court will award custody or require a party to pay child support. These issues are complicated, so if you are separating from your partner and have questions about your parental rights and obligations, it is critical to speak with an experienced child custody lawyer who can address your concerns.

Mother’s Rights 

Mothers are automatically granted parental rights upon the birth of their child. This is not necessarily true for a child’s father unless:

  • The child’s parents are married at the time of the birth; or
  • The father was present at the birth and signed the child’s birth certificate.

If neither of these situations applies, a father will not automatically get parental rights. Instead, it will be necessary to establish paternity before a court will award visitation or child support.

Establishing Paternity  

The first step to establishing the paternity of a child is to file a Petition to Determine Paternity with the court. After receiving a court order, the parties will undergo DNA testing to determine whether or not a person is actually a child’s father. If the test confirms that an individual is indeed a child’s biological father, he can exercise parental rights to visitation and custody. The child’s mother can also request child support and health insurance benefits for the child.

Parenting Plans 

Like child custody cases where the parties involved were previously married, unmarried parents are required to submit a parenting plan detailing how each party’s parental responsibilities will be divided and how visitation and custody will be scheduled. If the parenting plan is not acceptable or the parties are unable to come to an agreement, a judge will step in and make a determination based on what is in the best interests of the child. Although courts prefer to grant joint physical and legal custody to both parents, this is not always the result, as judges will take prior criminal records, the parties’ living situations, and in some cases, the child’s preference into account.

Child Support  

Once a child’s paternity has been established, his or her mother has the right to request child support from the father even if the couple was never married. The process of determining how much child support a party owes is the same regardless of whether the parties were married. This means that the court will evaluate each parent’s income and expenses before making a decision. Even when a child’s parent does not file for child support, the court can request it if the mother later applies for federal assistance.

Call Today to get the Representation You Deserve  

If you were never married to your child’s other parent and have questions about your parental rights and obligations, please call 954-945-7591 to speak with experienced Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. about your case. Our legal team is eager to assist you today.



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