Biological Father Lacks Legal Relationship, Standing to Seek Custody

A recent case, involving a Pennsylvania man and his biological child living in Florida, demonstrated the significant differences that sometimes exist between science and the law. A Florida appeals court both denied the biological father’s effort to litigate his custody dispute in his home state, and foreclosed his efforts to make a claim anywhere regarding custody of the child. The man’s resounding defeat resulted from several shortcomings, including his flouting custody orders and, in particular, his lack of legal relationship to the child because the mother was married to another man at the time of the child’s birth.

The case revolved around a child born to a couple in 2004. The child’s birth certificate listed the husband as the father; however, he was not the father. The child was the product of the mother’s relationship with another man. The child resided with the maternal grandmother from birth. The mother died in 2008, still married to the husband. After the mother’s death, the grandmother sought custody and the husband consented. At this point, the father sought to intervene and asked the court to declare him the child’s father and award him custody. The trial court concluded that the husband had severed his parental rights by abandoning the child, declared the biological father the father and awarded him custody.

Following a reversal of the ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal, the grandmother re-obtained legal custody. The father, however, refused to hand over the child, and the child remained in his physical custody for a 12 month period during which he had no legal rights regarding the child.

Ultimately, though, a Clay County trial court judge determined that the father qualified as an “extended family member” under Section 751.011 of the Florida Statutes, and permitted him to intervene. The appeals court again disagreed. First, the court explained that the father’s continued disobedience of the court’s custody orders should have weighed against his motion. The biological father, despite lacking legal custody, maintained physical custody for a year. Granting the motion “during [the father’s] unabashed defiance of a custody order provides incentive for disrespect of court orders and the rule of law in general,” the appeals court declared.

Another huge blow to the father’s case was the court’s conclusion that he was not an “extended family member” under Florida law. The court firmly announced that the father’s DNA evidence tended to show his biological relationship to the child was “legally insignificant.” The child was born into an intact marriage and no court ever entered an order terminating the husband’s parental rights. Under Florida law, only one man may be a child’s legal father and, in this case, that man remained the husband. As Florida does not allow recognition of dual fathers, the biological father could not be the father, and could not intervene in the grandmother’s custody action.

The ruling against this biological father highlights the profound importance of not only collecting scientific evidence of biological paternity but performing all the necessary procedural steps to establish legal paternity, as well. The South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have extensive knowledge and experience to help fathers establish paternity in cases throughout the Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade area. To obtain legal recognition of your relationship to your child, consult us for thoughtful, useful solutions. Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Child Custody Concerns on a Startling Rise, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 31, 2013
Important Updates to Florida’s Alimony/Child Custody Legislation, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 8, 2013