Are Custody Laws Different for Unmarried Parents?

It’s always hard when a family separates. Even when marriage isn’t present, a family still is. When that family has children, things are even more difficult. Parents need to try to reach a mutual understanding and compromise when dealing with custody laws. This makes things easier on both the parents and any children involved… But it isn’t always easy. The lack of a marriage can also muddy the waters, as most mediation assumes the presence of a divorce. Do unwed fathers have rights in Florida? Can a mother keep the father away in Florida? These are important questions, and you’re bound to have more. This article will cover some of the most common and urgent questions unwed parents have.

Who Gets Custody as Unwed Parents?

Under Florida State law, any child’s natural and legal guardian is the mother. The law describes guardianship as the person entrusted with custody and control of another individual. Unwed mothers automatically have guardianship and legal custody of the child. Even if a father’s name is on the birth certificate, this does not grant him custody. It does not impart the same rights the mother has.

Are Unwed Fathers Entitled to Visitation?

While a mother can choose to allow visitation rights to the father, this is not granted as a right. The exception is if the court has ordered visitation for the father.

If the mother chooses to allow visitation, she can also set restrictions within reason. This is especially important because if the father decides not to return the child, police often stay out of it. Mothers who have concerns about a father running off with their child should set restrictions. For example, visitation could occur in a public place or at the mother’s house. Mothers should be especially cautious if the father’s name is on a birth certificate.

Who Pays Child Support?

Without a court order, the mother is the only legal guardian of the child. Whoever has primary care of the child should receive child support, and by filing a paternity action, the father can be named the legal father. During the paternity case, the courts can order a parenting plan, child support, and time-sharing. Until this step happens, courts may not enforce child support payments.

Can Anyone Take the Child Away?

Sometimes, unmarried mothers face pressure from the father or other parties to hand over the child. Mothers need to remember that Florida’s child custody laws protect them. Nobody can take the child without a court order. Call law enforcement if somebody takes the child or attempts to take the child. Also, call the Department of Children and Families, as this may represent a crime. The crime in question would be “interference with custody.”

In Conclusion for Custody Laws

The child’s best interest is always placed first. Even though an unwed mother may receive initial custody, a court order may change the custody arrangements. Fathers seeking visitation, custody, or influence over the child’s life at all should seek out a paternity test as soon as possible. This is often the first step to making custody arrangements. Parents should also be aware that any changes to a custody arrangement must be done through court orders. If you have questions about your rights following separation in wedlock, give Thompson Law a call today.