Helpful tips for unmarried fathers, child support & custody

Typically, unwed Florida fathers trying to gain parental rights would be fighting an uphill battle. Doing so on one's own without proper knowledge may compound the problem, and make it much harder to get any real tangible results. Even though nothing beats having the knowledge and expertise of proficient legal counsel by one's side to help navigate the family law justice system, here are some tips that can help anyone trying to assert their rights as a parent.

Florida fathers may find it interesting to learn that signing a child's birth certificate does not affirm ones rights as a father. Paternity must be established, and can be done by filing a motion in court. In the absence of a court order, the father does not legally have any rights to the child. In essence, only a court ruling can legally establish parenthood.

When it comes to child support, if the mother applies for any type of government assistance, the state automatically files a motion for child support against the father. However, a father can get credit for child support made prior to any court order being issued. As long as proper, authentic and legal documentation, such as receipts and checks are kept, a court will likely accept it, and give the father credit.

It is preferable to work together. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that a couple can work together when it comes to custody and child support issues. Therefore, it is important for the father to file a petition to establish his rights and responsibilities.

It is important to keep in mind that child support and rights pertaining to spending time or visitation with a child are mutually independent. Being required to pay child support does not entitle one to shared custody or any visitation rights with one's child. They are completely separate matters, and each must be specifically granted by the court.

Source: ABC, "Five important things that unwed fathers need to know," Yvette Harrell, Oct. 8, 2013

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