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Though custody issues are most frequently considered an issue faced by divorcing couples, custody issues often arise between parents who were never married. In a perfect world, married and unmarried parents would be able to resolve matters related to custody without much strife, but unfortunately, this is often not the case.

Paternity

In most cases, when a married couple has a child, the birth mother’s husband is assumed by law to be the father. When parents are unmarried, Florida law requires paternity to be officially established through DNA testing. DNA testing can be performed at the request of a child’s mother, his or her alleged father, or the court. In order for an unmarried man to receive the legal rights of a father, paternity must be established.

In Florida, both biological parents are given equal custody rights to their child, which means neither parent can prevent the other from spending time with the child without approval from the court. A parent can seek a court order dictating custody rights and responsibilities, which is called an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. It is similar to the custody determination issued by the court in a divorce case and provides a final order for time sharing and decision-making responsibility for each parent. Any restriction in a parent’s time with a child is based on the best interest of the child.

Parenting Plans

Unmarried couples, like divorced couples, are required to create and submit to the court a parenting plan. This is a legal document that details information about how both parents will care for and spend time with the child. Creating a parenting plan is best done with the assistance of an attorney, to ensure that not only the welfare of the child is protected, but also that your rights as a parent are protected.

Parenting plans address both legal and physical custody of a child. This includes the time each parent spends with a child, as well as how important decisions are handled. Important decisions include issues related to education, religion, child care, health, and various activities. Parenting plans also address where a child lives and how much time is spent in each parent’s home.

Unmarried parents are first given an opportunity to create a parenting plan on their own. If one cannot be arranged without dispute, the court will intervene and create a plan. Though it might be tempting to leave the matter in the court’s hands, you should do what you can to keep control of the situation and negotiate the best parenting plan for your child. An attorney can help you create a plan that is fair and that puts the well-being of your child first, and he or she can also provide support if the matter needs to be determined in a courtroom.

To learn more or to speak with an attorney who understands Florida laws regarding custody and non-married parents, contact The Law Offices of Robert M. Geller by phone at 813-254-5696 or online by using our online contact form.

Call (813) 254-5696 anytime, or use this contact form, for your free initial consultation.
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