Dad, you have an 8-year-old son that is the apple of your eye. You were there when he took his first steps, attended every soccer game, and put his first fallen tooth under the pillow for the tooth fairy.
Now, his mother says she’s leaving with your child on a jet plane, with no intention of coming back. You tell her that there’s no way she’s taking your son. But she claims you have no legal ground, since you didn’t “put a ring on it.” You’re livid! You’re convinced she’s wrong, but don’t know what to do.
Here’s what you need to know.
In Florida, an unwed father does not have time-sharing rights until he obtains a court order, even if the father signed or acknowledged his paternity on the child’s birth certificate. This means that the mother is in fact, in the eyes of the law, the natural and legal custodian of the child, and is free to leave the state with the child if no order establishing paternity exists. The same is true even if the father is paying child support, but has no order specifying time-sharing and parental responsibility. Shocker, right? But this is how the law works!
So, in this example – even though it appears you’re eligible for a dad of the year award – at the moment, the mom will indeed be able to skip town with your child, and there is very little you can do about it. That is until you petition the court to establish paternity.
So here’s the bottom line.
Paternity cases are complicated and often involve extreme emotions. Retaining an experienced family lawyer is essential, if paternity is at issue in your case.
Attorney Yanique L. Otto is the lead attorney at the Otto Law Group. She focuses her practice exclusively on family law and personal injury cases.