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How Is Custody Determined When an Unmarried Couple Splits?

More and more couples these days are opting to have children out of wedlock. Some couples simply choose to go the non-traditional route, while others are not legally able to get married in the state of Florida, such as same-sex couples. While there is no harm in opting out of marriage, should you and your partner choose to part ways while your children are still under the age of 18, you will have to deal with atypical child custody issues.

Unmarried individuals often face a number of difficult situations when it comes to child custody and support that many unmarried couples do not have to deal with. For instance, some mothers are forced to deal with fathers that want to deny paternity altogether. Many fathers must deal with mothers who claim that “the child is not theirs,” making it nearly impossible for the father to receive any visitation rights. Other fathers are forced to pay child support on a child that is not even theirs.

Legal Rights of Unmarried Parents When Paternity is Established

Under Florida Statute 382.013, Section 2(c), when two unwed individuals have a child together, the mother has the option to place the father’s name on the birth certificate. If she chooses to do so, her and the person to be named father must sign an affidavit, which essentially grants full parenting rights to the father.

If the mother names a father at birth and signs the affidavit, the process to determine child custody and child support will not be any different than the process used in a typical Florida divorce case. Both mother and father have the same rights to the child, and the judge will determine final custody arrangements based on what is in the best interests of the child—which is how he or she would typically proceed in a normal divorce hearing.

Legal Rights of Unmarried Parents When Paternity is Not Established

Some states are beginning to recognize that many couples are choosing to have children out of wedlock, and that more and more individuals are assuming parenting roles when they do not legally have to. These states – such as Ohio, Virginia, Wyoming, and Arizona – allow for visitation by non-legal parents, and even for “any interested party” to bring an action for visitation. Some courts have even gone so far as to grant a non-legal parent custody.

Unfortunately, Florida is not one of the states that recognize the rights of a non-legal parent. Because of this, the most that you can really do if you are denied rights to your non-legal child is to hope that your child’s other parent has a change of heart, or at the very least is willing to negotiate some sort of visitation schedule with you.

Consult a Boca Raton Child Custody Lawyer

At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, our child custody lawyers want to help you obtain rights to a child that you helped raise. Whether or not you are a legal parent, if you helped raise your child from an early age, and if you contributed both financially and emotionally to his or her upbringing, you deserve visitation rights. Contact our Boca Raton family law attorneys today to see how we can help you work with the child’s other parent to create a practical child custody agreement that meets the child’s needs.



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