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The Miranda Wilkerson Case: A Florida Paternity Law Nightmare


Relationships are never simple when one partner is almost divorced but not quite.  After you file for divorce, it is understandable to want to start dating before the court issues a final decree of divorce.  If you are dating someone whose divorce is still pending, though, there is no escaping the fact that your partner’s ex-spouse is going to have some effect on your partner’s life and, by extension, on yours, at least until the divorce becomes final.  If alimony or child support is involved, the court will need to know all about your partner’s finances, even as you and your partner buy a house together or open a joint bank account.  If your partner has minor children with their ex, then any holiday plans you make with your partner will have to comply with your partner’s parenting plan.  The most complicated scenario, though, is if you and your partner conceive a child together, and the child is born before her divorce from her ex-husband is final.  The current state of Florida’s paternity laws make for a child custody case that definitely requires the help of a lawyer.

When the Court Awards Custody to the Least Likely Contender

Rita Manning’s relationship with Donald Coleman was never good.  Donald started dating Rita’s daughter Trista Crews when he was 38 and Trista was 14.  Rita granted permission for Trista to marry Donald when she was 16, but Donald had to register as a sex offender for starting a relationship with Trista when she was so young.  Donald and Trista had three children together, one of whom was born before they married in 1999.

Trista gave birth to a fourth child, Miranda Wilkerson, and everyone agreed that Donald was not Miranda’s biological father.  Donald filed for divorce from Trista in 2007, shortly after Miranda’s birth.  About a month later, Trista died in a car accident at age 24.  Thus, Rita raised Miranda almost from birth.  When Miranda was three years old, Rita attempted to adopt her formally, but then Coleman tried to get custody of her, as did her biological father.  The court awarded custody to Donald, since, according to Florida law, he was Miranda’s legal father because he was married to Trista when Miranda was born.  This fact apparently carried more weight than the fact that Donald was a registered sex offender who had impregnated a 14-year-old and that he had moved to Georgia shortly after Miranda’s birth and had little contact with her.  Rita also had a criminal record for contributing to the delinquency of a minor; this conviction was from the mid-1990s, around the time that Donald and Trista’s relationship started.  When determining the child’s best interest, courts should, however, consider who has consistently been the child’s caregiver with whom the child has a strong emotional bond.

Let Us Help You Today

Child custody cases are not always as simple as seeing whose names are listed as legal parents on the child’s birth certificate.  Contact the Boca Raton child custody lawyers at Schwartz | White about your case.



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