Friday, November 9, 2012

Advice for Unwed Fathers

I recently heard a statistic that stated that more than 40% of children today are born to couples who are not married. While this percentage is lower if you are over 30 when you have your children or have a college degree, there is still a vast majority of people who are choosing to have their children before they get married or decide not to get married at all. This sometimes creates unforeseen issues and problems for unwed fathers if the relationship does not work out in the manner that they had hoped. First and foremost, signing a birth certificate does not automatically give you any rights. Fl. Stat. Sec. 742.031(2) has been interpreted to mean that unless a father is adjudicated the father and specifically provided parental rights, the mother is deemed to have sole parental responsibility and all the time-sharing of the child. This means that if the mother and the father of a child choose to part ways romantically, the mother would not be legally in the wrong for denying contact or making unilateral decisions regarding the welfare of a child, including potentially moving from the jurisdiction of the Courts here in Florida. Most men should be scared of this fact and should actively insure that their right to be a father is protected. While it is true that most Judges do not like when a woman denies a father contact just because "she can" and either provide make-up time or some other reprimand, if your baby's mother moves from the State of Florida the damage is done. So, here are some tips to help insure that your rights are protected and to provide you an easier path if you are forced to move forward with a court proceeding in order to set forth a time-sharing schedule: 1. Always, always, always sign the Birth Certificate and obtain a copy of the birth certificate for your files. 2. Make sure that you and the mother sign an Affidavit and Acknowledge of Paternity acknowledging that you are the father of the child. 3. Sign and file with the Putative Father Registry. The link to obtain the necessary forms to file are as follows: 4. If you have health insurance through your employer, place your child under your policy. 5. Prior to the child's mother and you parting ways as a couple, insist that you both agree to a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule. This should be filed with the Court with a properly filed Petition to Establish Paternity. This is the only way to insure that your rights are protected and that you have a way to enforce the schedule that you both have agreed to. 6. Make sure that your name appears on all emergency contact records and with your child's pediatrician. 7. Most importantly, be as involved as possible and work with the Mother remembering that you both are in the business of raising your child and the best chance that your child has of becoming a well-adjusted adult is if you two co-parent him/her with the least amount of animosity towards one another.