Rights of Biological Fathers Reassessed in Groundbreaking Case
Florida law has long held that a child born into an intact marriage is presumed to be the biological child of the mother’s husband. However, a recently issued ruling from the Florida Supreme Court struck down this decades-old rule, which could mean that biological fathers of children born to women who are married to someone else will not automatically be denied contact with their offspring. To learn more about this ruling and how it could affect your own family law case, please contact a member of our dedicated visitation and time sharing legal team today.
The groundbreaking ruling recently issued by the Florida Supreme Court was born of a relationship, in which a mother never told the biological father of their child that she was married to someone else. Prior to learning that his child’s mother was actually married, the plaintiff had been active in the child’s life, paid child support, was present at the hospital when the baby was born, and was named as the father on the child’s birth certificate. Later, when the child’s biological father sought visitation rights, the child’s mother and her husband objected, citing the presumption of legitimacy, which states that the person married to a child’s mother is that child’s legal father.
Supreme Court Opinion
Upon appeal, the state supreme court unanimously ruled in favor of the biological father, arguing that the presumption of legitimacy standard was outdated, as it was created when science could not be used to reliably establish paternity and was at least partly grounded in the moral underpinnings of the era in which it was established. For these reasons, the court ultimately held that biological fathers who reveal a substantial and continuing concern for a child’s welfare shouldn’t automatically be barred from their child’s life because the mother is married to someone else. Instead, the court argued, biological fathers should be permitted to provide evidence demonstrating that involvement in the child’s life would be in his or her best interests.
The Impact of the Ruling
Based on this ruling, fathers can presume that, at least in some cases, they will be allowed to attempt to establish paternity, even when the child’s mother and her spouse object. We can also expect to see a change in state law that will reflect the court’s recent influential decision. In the meantime, however, biological fathers can rebut the presumption of legitimacy by demonstrating a substantial and continuing concern for a child’s welfare, which could take the form of proof that he:
- Pays child support, even if the mother returns the money
- Makes an active and regular effort to spend time and bond with the child; and
- Is involved in the child’s day-to-day activities, such as transporting him or her to school, daycare, or appointments.
These are not the only forms of proof that a court will accept, so if you have questions about demonstrating your paternity to a court, you should consider contacting a family law attorney who can advise you.
Contact Our Legal Team Today
If you have questions for a Fort Lauderdale visitation and time sharing lawyer, please contact Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale to discuss your case further. She can be reached at 954-945-7591 or by online message.