If you are not married to your child’s mother and you have never had your paternity established, you might be surprised to learn that if you break-up with the mother, you may not automatically have timesharing or decision-making rights over your child. In fact, the child’s mother may not be obligated to allow you visitation with the child or involve you in making major decisions regarding the child, including relocation to a different state.
In order for a biological father to gain rights to his child, it may be necessary to file a Petition to Establish Paternity with the Florida court. If your name is listed as the child’s legal father on his or her birth certificate, there is a rebuttal presumption that you are the child’s legal father. However, it is important to understand that it also allows the child’s mother to make a claim for child support.
So, what can you do to protect yourself? Ask the child’s mother to enter into a binding paternity agreement while you are still together. Make sure the contract sets forth a time sharing or visitation schedule as well as your rights in decision-making for the child in the event you and the mother break-up in the future.
If you cannot enter into an agreement with the mother of the child, contact us to file a petition to establish paternity as quickly as possible. This is important because it will prevent the mother from trying to move out of state with the child as a means for preventing you from having visitation time. You should also be prepared to start making child support payments. Be sure to write “child support” on the memo line of your check so you have written evidence that you are dedicated to providing for your child. You should also make every effort to spend time with the child and document any refusal by the mother to foster your relationship with your child.
Paternity must be established before child custody, visitation, or child support matters can be decided. For help in establishing paternity or fighting an erroneous allegation of paternity, call the Men’s Divorce Law Firm to schedule an appointment.