It used to be that custody arrangements heavily favored mothers in the courts. Mothers were often given primary custody of their children, while fathers were allowed visitation but had to work around the mother's schedule. Recently, and as we have more psychological data to make decisions on, mothers are no longer favored in custody arrangements unless the child is very young. The older the child gets, the less likely it is that the parent's gender will be considered in who has the majority of time with the children. The following are the basics of fathers' rights and paternity under the law.
Is ‘Fathers' Rights' Just a Buzzword for Antifeminism?
Men's rights activists do discuss fathers' rights issues under the law. In their case, they discuss how the law privileges mothers over fathers. While this may have been true in the past, it is becoming increasingly less common. Fathers now have equal claim to children who are over the age of 10.
While the law says that mothers and fathers have equal claims to a child of a certain age, the court also assumes that the younger a child is, the more the child will need their mother. The law further assumes that keeping the status quo for children is better than major disruptive changes to the child's life. So, in that sense, the law still does favor mothers because the law presumes that it will be in the child's best interests to maintain their situation and that younger children need their mothers.
Of course, as the child grows older, they will have more say in who they live with. The court will consider the children's wishes when discussing a custody change or a change of residence.
What if a Father Wants to Establish Paternity of a Child?
A man has no standing under the law to have legal access to a child unless they first establish paternity. It often happens that a man learning of the birth of a child wants a relationship with that child. If they cannot work something out with the mother, they can ask the court to intervene. They will be required to provide DNA which will be tested against the child's DNA. If the DNA comes back a match, then the father has established paternity. He can now begin requesting parental rights over his child.
What if a Father Wants to Deny Paternity?
It sometimes happens that a mother insists an individual is the father of their child, but the father has his doubts. As an example, a father may believe that he has been fingered for paternity just because he is in the most stable financial position. In that case, a father may want to fight paternity and demand a DNA test. The court will accommodate that request. If the DNA is not a match, the father will not be required to pay child support.
What if the Mother Wants to Establish Paternity?
In some cases, the mother may want to establish that an individual man is the father of her child because they want child support and help raising the child. In other cases, the State of Florida may intervene on her behalf, especially if the mother is requesting benefits or monetary support from the government. The state will usually accommodate her request but also attempt to find the father, establish paternity, and ensure that it is him paying the support and not the taxpayers.
Who Can File a Paternity Action?
There are only three entities that may file a paternity action. Those are Mom, prospective-Dad, and Uncle Sam. Family members providing economic support to Mom may not file a paternity action.
Establishing Paternity: The Basics
Establishing paternity does not require a DNA test. Generally, fathers can claim the paternity of a child. So long as the agreement is signed by both parties in front of two witnesses and notarized, the law establishes the document signer as the legal father of the child regardless of any other consideration including biological and genetic ones.
Further, in cases in which the father is not the biological father of a child, paternity can be established so long as the child was born while the mother and father were still married. It sounds crazy, but the law makes it clear why. If a child is born into an intact marriage, the husband is automatically presumed to be the father. In some cases, fathers have found out years later that the child is not genetically theirs. However, because they have established a relationship with the child, and the child is dependent on the husband for support, the law establishes that the husband must continue to provide support absent other factors such as the “true” father steps forward and begins supporting the child.
Similarly, a father who enters into a marriage after a child is conceived is presumed to be the father.
In other words, the time to establish paternity or to prevent paternity from being established is right at the beginning. Once paternity has been established and the child comes to know the parent as his father, it will be way too late to recoup support money.
Should I Establish Paternity of a Child I Believe is Mine?
If you have cause to believe a child is yours and you want parenting rights over the child, to spend time with the child, or establish even a basic rapport with the child, you will need to establish paternity. The law holds that a mother has 100% guardianship over any child born out of wedlock.
If you do not want to establish paternity, you do not have to do anything. However, if you are the father of the child and the mother applies for benefits, the state of Florida may demand a paternity test to force you to pay support.
Talk to a Tampa Fathers' Rights Attorney Today
If you want to establish paternity, deny paternity, or fight the presumption of paternity, call the Tampa fathers' rights attorneys at Florida Divorce Law Group today to schedule a free 30-minute consultation and discuss your situation in greater detail.