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The parental rights of unwed fathers

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2023 | Family Law

Presently in Florida, an unwed mother is automatically granted full legal and physical custody of her newborn infant, even if the biological father is named on the birth certificate. This is the starting point, the default legal position for a child born out of wedlock in this state.

Degrees of responsibility

Physical custody refers to the day-to-day care, the protection and safeguarding of the child. Parenting time and visitation rights would come under this umbrella.

Legal custody refers to the important decisions in a child’s life including but not limited to schooling, religious affiliation, medical treatment and obtaining a passport.

For an unwed father to have a full relationship with his offspring, he must petition the court for custody and visitation time. Then timesharing is worked out the way it would have been if the parents had been married and subsequently split.

An impending seismic shift in Florida Law

As attributed by Florida Politics, if passed in the 2023 Legislative Session, two bills, HB 775 presented by Democratic Rep. Christopher Benjamin and a companion bill, SB 1146 presented by Republican Sen. Clay Yarborough will alter this Floridian view of paternity.

These bills set forth that the biological father, having established paternity, will be able to sign an affidavit wherein the mother acknowledges him and grants him equal guardianship and rights.

Instead of a legal rough-and-tumble over who’s in charge, both parents will quickly turn their time and energy to the welfare and development of the child.

As per Florida Politics, Benjamin states, “What we’re saying is, when that father does that step up, he now becomes the natural guardian of the child, so now the unwed mother and father are the natural guardians of that child born out of wedlock, and all the rights of parenthood are conveyed on them both.”

Interesting developments on the horizon. In the meantime, it’s prudent to consult with an attorney experienced in this area of the law to understand one’s rights and responsibilities and ensure the best possible outcome.