Unmarried fathers have traditionally faced challenges in gaining the right to see their children and be part of their lives. Advancements in DNA and genetic testing have made it easier for men to prove their biological connection to a child. However, obtaining the rights and responsibilities that go along with that can involve considerable red tape.
Beginning on July 1, Florida law made things a bit easier for unmarried fathers. The new law, passed by the state legislature with bipartisan support, allows a man to obtain parenting rights without having to go to court as long as he and the child’s mother sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.
Who is considered a “natural guardian?”
Prior to the law taking effect, only the mother was considered the child’s natural guardian. For a father to seek parental responsibility and timesharing rights, he had to go to court.
As the Summary Analysis of the legislation explains, now “an unwed mother and a father who has established paternity are the natural guardians of a child and, as such, have the rights and responsibilities associated with raising a child.” They still need to have a timesharing scheduling, parental responsibility and parenting plan approved by the court to make those official and to get a child support order.
The new law can help mothers as well
While this new law has widely been described as a win for unwed fathers, anything that can help minimize the amount of court involvement can be a good thing for mothers as well. It can help make it easier for fathers to acknowledge their biological children, which means it can help mothers who want to share the responsibility (and cost) of raising a child with the father a bit easier.
Of course, not all parents are going to agree on how support, responsibility and time with a child are to be shared. Unwed parents (particularly those who aren’t together as a couple) can have all the same disagreements about these things that divorcing parents can have. Having experienced legal guidance can help you work toward agreements that are in your child’s best interests.