Do a father's visitation rights diminish due to a violent crime?

It is not unusual for unmarried parents to deal with similar issues that a divorced couple with children might such as child support, visitation and custody. In Florida, before a man is afforded the rights and responsibilities of being a father, paternity must be established. In essence, he must be recognized as the legal father of the child before he gets his father's rights such as child visitation.

In Florida, paternity is established by the unmarried parents signing a legal document stating who the father is through DNA testing, a court order to determine paternity or legitimation such as the parents getting married after the birth of the child and accordingly update the birth certificate. Once paternity is established, the father of the child has rights and obligations such as child visitation and child support payments of the mother of the child. Courts are recognizing the importance of both parents spending equal time with their child if it is in the best interest of the child. Nevertheless, residents of Florida may find it interesting that a Massachusetts man who pled guilty to statutory rape is seeking visitation rights with the child conceived as a result of the rape.

Any violent act against another is a serious matter. In the case above, the court gave the man 16 years of probation with the condition that he acknowledges he is the father of the child and follows all family court orders. By imposing an unusual criminal sentence with these conditions, the court opened the door for him to request visitation rights with the child. Despite the fact that when deciding visitation issues courts consider the best interest of the child and presume that the child will benefit from having contact with both parents, this presumption can be overcome when the other parent can show that such contact or visitation is likely to cause harm to the child. In the case above, since the man pled guilty to statutory rape, the mother can argue against him having visitation with the child.

In general, unmarried fathers wanting to establish a parent-child relationship with their child are encouraged to do so and should consider their legal options to see their children.

Source: Fox News, "Rapist seeking visitation with child he fathered after attack on teen victim," Sept. 25, 2012

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