Families in America today come in all shapes and sizes, and don’t always fit into a typical nuclear mold. They can be created in many ways, including outside of the institution of marriage. While the divorce process creates a very clear path for parents who are separating, there are often some obstacles that parents may face when they are separating but are not married.

If you are not married to your child’s other parent you may feel that the law has limited options when it comes to your children, but this is not necessarily the case. By filing the proper petitions, and understanding how Florida laws apply to your situation, you can establish a parenting plan in a timely manner.

Establishing Parentage

A child’s mother is established at birth, but according to Florida law, a child’s father is only established through voluntary acknowledgement or testing. Establishing the parents of a child is the first step in order to create a parenting plan for the courts.

The easiest way for the a child’s father to be established is through voluntary acknowledgement, such as by signing the birth certificate at birth. Another voluntary option involves a petition that both natural parents sign in the presence of a notary. The other method is through paternity testing. This will help the court to determine the child’s father through DNA or blood testing. By establishing paternity, responsibility to the child is established and legal action may be taken.

Once paternity has been established, a father can exercise his rights for responsibility and time sharing of the child. A mother can also request child support and access to benefits such as health insurance from the father.

Creating A Parenting Plan
Once the parents of a child have been determined, a parenting plan must be submitted to the courts. This is similar to the child custody process that takes place for previously married couples. A parenting plan must include an outline for responsibilities and time sharing that will create a lifestyle that is in the best interests of the child.

Courts generally believe that it is in the best interest of the child to have joint legal custody, which means that each parent has equal say in the child’s welfare. This will require both parents to work together in decision making regarding the child’s housing, education, healthcare, etc.

At this point, a time sharing agreement will also be established. This could be granted to one or both parents based on criminal records, drug abuse and past issues of domestic violence. Again, the courts will rule in favor of what is best for the child.

Child Support
If both parents are present on the birth certificate, the same legal process would be followed for parents who were formerly married. Child support is calculated based on each parent’s gross income and expenses. Florida has an established guideline worksheet that will help to determine how much each spouse will have to contribute monthly.

In most cases, unmarried parents are treated much the same as formerly married parents. There are a few extra steps to get the process going, but it is possible to undergo the process in an efficient manner with the right team on your side. If you have questions or need assistance with your child custody, Seff & Capizzi Law Group has the ability to assist with your situation. At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives.

If you need assistance with your child custody case, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.