Father and daughter on beachThis is the second post in my series on how Florida law applies to unmarried parents going through a child custody dispute. My last article provided an overview of subjects I will be addressing during this series and stressed the need to contact an attorney rather than engaging in “self help.” It is best for both you and your child to seek immediate representation. In this post I will discuss another important topic – the need to establish paternity in a timeshare case. It is important to understand that no other issues can be resolved until parentage is settled. I cannot stress enough the fact that you should contact an attorney immediately if you are going through a custody dispute.

Florida is like other states in that it does not acknowledge the rights or obligations of a father if the parties are not married and paternity has not been established. This means that if an unmarried dad is not on the child’s birth certificate then that person will have no right to visitation, no right to offer input regarding the child’s upbringing, and no obligation to pay child support. In other words, until paternity is established the biological father is no more a “dad” to the child than any other male. Once paternity is established then a father will have the rights and obligations which go along with being a parent.

Paternity can be established by filing a Petition with the Court. The Court will hold an initial hearing and order DNA testing if the parties do not agree on parentage. If the DNA test is negative then the case will end. If the test is positive then the Court will enter a temporary order regarding child custody, visitation, and child support. These temporary orders will stand until a permanent arrangement is decided at a trial. Establishing parentage also means that the Court can order the father to pay child support arrears for prior years. The Court will typically allow these arrears to be paid through a payment plan. I discuss these issues in this video:

It is important that you retain an attorney to assist you with establishing paternity, custody, and support. While the handling of a DNA test is straightforward, establishing timeshare and financial obligations are not. The parties will often agree on whether a joint custody order should be entered or if the parents should have an equal timeshare. Florida law also allows for disputes as to what is a fair child support amount and how arrears should be calculated. Experienced counsel will assist you with such issues.

Contact my office today to speak with a Melbourne child custody lawyer. I handle all matters in my office personally and am often able to do so for an affordable flat fee. My office also services clients in the Brevard County cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, and Orchid.