At Hernandez Family Law, we understand the issues you face as a Florida father going through a divorce. Adding custody issues to that mix can bring in additional levels of stress to your life. Our attorney is highly skilled at constructing solutions to your parenting issues, which will naturally include an ongoing relationship with your children.
What Are Your Rights as a Florida Father?
Don’t be one of the fathers who gives up rights to their children under the assumption they will lose those rights in court anyhow. While the court will certainly take a look at the amount of parenting done by each parent prior to the divorce, few courts automatically award custody to the mother. While the mother could be the parent who typically handled more parenting responsibilities, it could also be the father. If both parents consistently split parental duties, the father theoretically will have the same opportunity as the mother to share custody.
Your Florida judge will attempt to ensure both father and mother will have frequent, continuous interactions with the children. Therefore, if both parents shared in taking the children to school, attending parent-teacher conferences, preparing meals, helping with homework, taking the children to doctor’s appointments and attending extracurricular activities, the court will want to maintain this level of interaction even after the divorce.
Specifically, as a father, you have the following rights:
You have an equal right as the children’s mother to have input regarding where your children will live and attend school
You have the same rights as your children’s mother to look at the medical and school records of your children
You have the right to spend time with your children, remaining an influence in their lives
You have the right to care for and love your children with no aggravation from the children’s mother
You have the same rights as the children’s mother to determine what religion your children will be exposed to
You have the right to make decisions regarding necessary medical treatments
You have the right to use your own beliefs regarding guidance and discipline for your children without constant interference from your children’s mother
You have the right to take part in extracurricular activities your children participate in
Obviously, with these rights comes responsibility to your children. You must contribute financially to your children on a regular basis, and must always ensure they are properly fed, clothed and housed. You must ensure your children consistently have access to medical treatment when necessary as well as educational opportunities. As hard as it can be, following a divorce, you have the responsibility of encouraging a loving relationship between your children and their mother.
Paternity Issues in the State of Florida
As with most states, when a married couple have a baby, the legal presumption exists that the husband is the child’s father. When an unmarried woman has a baby, even when there is a long-term relationship between the woman and a specific man, there is no legal presumption that the man is the baby’s father. Clients who attempt to establish paternity as well as those who refute paternity, require help from an experienced Florida attorney. The unmarried mother of a child can file a paternity suit against the man she believes is the father of her child. A man who has a reasonable belief he is the father of a child may also bring a legal case to determine paternity.
The presumed father is the man who was married to the mother at the time of conception or birth, married the mother following the birth, agreeing his name would appear on the birth certificate or a man who welcomed a child into his home, presenting the child as his own. The acknowledged father is the biological father of a child born to unmarried parents who freely admits the child is his. An equitable father is neither the adoptive nor biological father, yet has a close, loving relationship with the child. Stepfathers usually fall under this category. An unwed father is biologically the child’s father, however if he chooses to retain his parental rights, he will be required to acknowledge paternity. In order to establish paternity, a paternity suit will be filed with the court which will include a DNA test. Should a man refuse the DNA test, the court will likely order him to do so.
If you want to pursue sole or joint parental custody of your children, if you need to establish paternity, or if you are the target of a paternity case, it is important to speak to an experienced, compassionate attorney from The Law Place who will fight hard for your rights as a father. Don’t simply give up custody without exploring all your options—you deserve to be a part of your children’s lives.
In addition to the basics of a Florida divorce, fathers should be mindful of the following issues that may arise prior to divorce. As with Mothers, if the father has the slightest belief that his wife/mother may take crucial financial documents and records in an attempt to gain a better divorce settlement, make copies of every important document and move those papers to a safe place or give them to your attorney if you have already retained one. Mortgage papers, bank statements, telephone records, property titles, loan information, debit card records, and records relating to expensive jewelry, artwork or furniture should all be moved to a safe location.
If you think your bank accounts could be cleaned out, go to the bank, divide joint accounts in half, and deposit your half in your own name. Make sure you keep careful records of these transactions. Also make sure the household bills are covered and that your children are taken care of financially, or you risk annoying a judge.
To avoid having joint credit cards maxed out before your divorce is final, close joint credit or loan accounts, and notify banks and credit card companies that you will no longer be responsible for charges made by your spouse. Do the right thing and let your wife know what you have done so she is not left in the grocery checkout line with no way to pay.
If your wife and children are covered on your health insurance you receive through your place of employment, don’t drop them from the policy until a judge says you can. If you are responsible for paying child support, you may be ordered to keep the children on your health insurance policy.
As you are probably aware, should you move out of the marital residence during the divorce, you will have to maintain two households which can be very expensive. Cancel anything which is not absolutely necessary. Do NOT, however have the utilities cut off in the home where your wife and children live.
If you have a retirement fund or pension, any of those funds contributed to during your marriage are marital assets and will be divided as such. Make a careful inventory of everything in your home. Taking photographs or a videotape can be a good idea.
If you and your wife have valuable collections, jewelry, artwork, firearms, cash or heirlooms in your home, remove them to a safe place. You are not trying to hide the assets—and will include them on the inventory—however this could prevent items you hold dear from being sold at a garage sale, out of spite.
If you don’t have one, go to the bank and get a safe deposit box. Finally, find a good divorce lawyer and set up an appointment immediately.
Call us if you are interested in developing a roadmap to deal with the issues that arise from paternity and timesharing today!