What are the rights of an unmarried father regarding custody? Like everything else in the law, the answer is dependent upon the facts.

The law in Florida is that the unmarried mother is the presumptive guardian of her child unless or until a court order is entered recognizing the biological father. Until a court order is entered, either in a paternity suit or a child support action, the biological father does not have any legal rights to his child. If the mother wants to relocate out of the area, she can do so without his permission. But if the father has been recognized by the court as the biological father, she cannot move over 50 miles without his agreement or a court order over riding his objection.

If a father wants his legal rights, he will have to seek obtain the required court order in a paternity action. That is, a lawsuit asking the court to recognize his status as the biological father and allowing him to be involved in his child’s life and requiring him to pay child support. The “lawsuit” can be as simple as filing with the clerk of court an affidavit acknowledging paternity as provided in Section 742.10, Florida Statutes. As to rearing the child and supporting it, the court will then treat the unmarried couple in the same manner as a divorced couple. There will be a presumption of shared parenting, a parenting plan and a calculation of child support based upon the number of overnights granted to each parent and the respective incomes of each parent.

Section 63.053 and 63.054, Florida Statues also provides a way to prevent an unmarried father’s rights from being erased due to an adoption or some other proceeding. The father may register with the Florid Putative Father Registry by filing a notarized claim of paternity form. Any attempt to place the child for adoption requires that the registry be checked and the registered father be given notice the right to intervene in the adoption proceeding. Without the registration, there is usually no standing for the father to object. However, there is an exception: If the father has developed a substantial relationship with the child by visiting at least monthly or has maintained regular communication with the child and contributed to the child’s support, also has standing to object to an adoption of his child.

This is an area where the use of an experienced attorney can be a necessity. If you need my help, go to my web site at www.peppler law.com or call my office for a consult.