On June 30, 2023, Governor DeSantis signed into law SB 1416. Now, an unwed father has the following options available to become a legal father without filing a lawsuit.
Finding an attorney with the expertise and integrity to protect your family’s best interests is crucial regarding family law. Our experienced attorneys at Pinellas Family Lawyer have an in-depth understanding of Florida family law, making us well-equipped to handle various cases for couples and families.
Before July 1, 2023:
Unwed fathers in Florida needed to file what’s called a “Paternity” lawsuit to be adjudicated or granted the status of “legal father.” Also, unwed fathers who signed their children’s birth certificates were only “presumed” to be the father but were also not granted this legal father status without a lawsuit. Without this legal father status, fathers had no rights to visitation, custody, or timesharing of their children. Mothers were deemed natural guardians by default with all the rights until any court proceedings took place, saying otherwise.
After July 1, 2023:
However, a batch of new bills were signed into law over the summer of 2023, revamping the rights of unwed fathers. Now, an unwed father has the following various options available to him to become a legal father without having to file a lawsuit:
1. At the Hospital
- A father may sign the birth certificate.
- Some hospitals may require witness signatures, a notary public, or both
- Once the birth certificate is signed correctly and 60 days have passed, the father is deemed the “Legal Father” with “equal guardianship rights to the mother.”
2. After Leaving the Hospital
- If you were unable to sign the birth certificate at the hospital, you can fill out the “Ackno” ledgment of Paternity” (For” DH 432)
- The Mother must also consent and sign this form
- This form must include witness signatures or a notarization
- The form can then be mailed to the Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics, which, if executed correctly and 60 days have passed, the father will be deemed the “Legal” Father” with “equal guardianship rights to the Mother.”
3. Doubt Regarding Paternity
- Unmarried men who believe they may have fathered a child can voluntarily register with the Putative Father Registry in the state of Florida if that is where they believe the child is/was born.
- Once registered, if an adoption proceeding involving the child occurs, adoption agencies, attorneys, or the courts are required to check the registry to determine if a registered putative father may have the opportunity to consent to or contest the adoption.
- In cases where there is any doubt about paternity, it is advisable to consult with an attorney or a legal expert who can provide guidance on the best course of action to protect your rights and the child’s best interests.
This new revamp of the legislation now prevents various scenarios like fathers ending up with a child support obligation for a child whom they have no rights over. Also, law enforcement will now be even more hesitant to intervene in custody disputes, giving preference to one parent or the other without any court documentation describing a parenting plan or timesharing schedule.
Contact Pinellas Family Lawyer if you have any other further questions or concerns.
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