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How Does Custody Work with Unmarried Parents?

While there are well-known procedures for dealing with custody when married parents get divorced, you may be less certain about what is going to happen if you separate from a partner who you are not married to and with whom you have kids. Unfortunately, while this is a common occurrence, the system in place for handling this situation is complex and not well known, so it is important that unmarried parents know their rights when separating from their partner. To help you get a better idea of what to expect, here is a quick overview of how custody works with unmarried parents in Florida.

Guardianship Boca Raton, Florida

If you and your partner with whom you have children separate and you are not married, the first thing you may wonder is who will be made guardian. Under Florida law, the mother is the natural guardian of a child born outside of marriage. The mother will automatically have legal custody of the child in the event an unmarried couple separates. Even if the father’s name is on the birth certificate, this does not automatically grant the father rights in Florida, as most cases require paternity to be established before the unwed father is given rights. In fact, if paternity is not established, the mother is under no obligation to offer visitation to the father; however, this does not mean that the father is left without options in this circumstance.

Establishing Paternity Boca Raton, Florida

In order to obtain visitation rights or even partial custody of your children as an unwed father, the first thing that you will have to do is establish paternity by filing a Petition to Determine Paternity. This process will require that you get a court order, and DNA testing may be required to determine paternity. Once paternity is established, the father can then exercise his rights and petition for custody and visitation time with the child, and time-sharing rights will be able to be put into place at this point.

Visitation and Custody Boca Raton, Florida

Once paternity is established and the father petitions for custody and time-sharing rights, custody cases with unmarried couples progresses similarly to previously married couples. Before appearing in court, each parent must prepare a parenting plan to submit to the judge that will detail the parent’s wishes for the child and his/her plans for taking care of the child in the future. At this point, it will be up to the judge to rule in the best interests of the child when determining custody and time-sharing. Depending on each parent’s wishes and financial situation, a judge may choose to give one parent primary custody while permitting visitation to the other parent, but in many instances joint custody is the preferred option, allowing both parents to play an equal part in raising the child.

Child Support Boca Raton, Florida

If one parent ends up with primary custody of the child, they may also choose to file for child support from the other parent. Child support will be calculated by taking a variety of factors into account such as each parent’s income and expenses. Florida’s Child Support Guidelines Worksheet will also be used to determine how much each spouse will have to contribute monthly. Florida has strict guidelines for the payment of child support, and there will be severe consequences if a parent does not pay the proper amount of child support, or if they do not pay it on time.

Dealing with issues relating to paternity, custody, and child support can be complicated after an unmarried couple with children separates. This makes it important that you consider consulting an attorney when separating from your partner if children are involved in order to protect your rights as you move forward after separating from your partner. Contact us to learn how we can help you to deal with custody issues in Florida if you and your unmarried partner with whom you have children are separating.