Generally, when a child is born to a married couple, both parents have the right to care and custody of the child. Pursuant to Florida law, however, when a child is born out of wedlock, the mother is deemed the child’s natural guardian and has the right to sole custody and care of the child absent a court order stating otherwise. Notably, as discussed in a recent Florida case, the purported father of a child born outside of a marriage does not have parental rights even if they file an acknowledgment of paternity that goes unchallenged. If you need assistance handling a paternity dispute, you should consult a Miami paternity attorney to assess your options for protecting your interests.
Facts of the Case
It is alleged that the parties lived together following the child’s birth in 2014. The father signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity at the child’s birth in accordance with Florida law; the mother did not contest the acknowledgment. However, there were no further orders regarding the father’s parental rights. In 2022, after the parents separated, the mother moved with the child to her parents’ home, which was located about 20 miles away, and enrolled the child in school there.
It is reported that the father filed an emergency motion to compel the mother to enroll the child in a school in the city where the parties previously resided. The court granted the motion, and the mother appealed.
Parental Rights Under Florida law
On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. In doing so, the court explained that at the time the court granted the motion to compel, there was no court order establishing the father’s parental rights, and therefore the mother had the right to primary residential care and custody of the child, including the decision of where the child would attend school.
The court explained that while the father signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity at the child’s birth, it did not give him any custodial rights over the child. Further, Florida law states that an unmarried mother of a child is deemed the child’s natural guardian and has the right to primary residential care and custody of the child unless a court order states otherwise.
In other words, the father’s parenting rights remained uncertain until recognized by a court order. As such, the court reversed the order and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings.
Speak to a Seasoned Miami Attorney About Your Case
Even if unmarried co-parents have an amicable relationship, it benefits both of them to establish both paternity and parental rights and obligations via a court order. If you have questions about your rights with regard to custody, visitation, or child support, it is smart to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. The seasoned Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have ample experience handling custody and paternity disputes, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. We have an office in Aventura, and we often represent parties in custody and paternity actions in Miami. You can reach us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to schedule a conference.