Father’s Rights and Florida’s New Paternity Law
A significant announcement was recently made that could potentially transform the lives of countless families across Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a new law recognizing the rights of unwed fathers, which came into effect on July 1, 2023. This amendment to Florida’s “natural guardians” law (Section 744.301) heralds a significant milestone in the fight for paternal rights and recognizes the integral role fathers play in the lives of their children.
Before this amendment, the legal guardianship of a child born to unwed parents was defaulted to the mother. Now, a bipartisan effort has revised the statute to ensure that both mother and the father – provided he has established paternity under Sections 742.011 or 742.10 of Florida Statutes – are designated as the natural guardians of their child. They now share equal rights and responsibilities.
Under the new law, paternity can be established through court action or through the execution of a notarized voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. This is a significant step forward, as it allows paternity to be acknowledged outside of a courtroom setting. The document, once signed by both parents under penalty of perjury and properly witnessed, can constitute a legal establishment of paternity unless rescinded within 60 days of its signing, or as determined by a judicial proceeding or court order. It is important to remember that the right to contest the voluntary acknowledgment exists, but only under specific circumstances.
The new law allows fathers the same rights and responsibilities as mothers. This means fathers who have established paternity can now actively participate in their child’s life outside of paternity proceedings. However, disagreements may still arise concerning matters like timesharing, child support, or other child-related issues. In such scenarios, judicial intervention may be required to resolve the disputes and ensure the child’s best interests are served.
In cases where paternity has not been established, the law maintains the status quo. The mother retains the right to be the child’s and is entitled to primary residential care and custody, unless stated otherwise by a court order. Typically, this means that a Father must file a paternity action to establish his legal rights as a Father.
This significant shift in Florida’s law acknowledges the crucial role that fathers, whether wed or unwed, play in their children’s lives. It is a monumental step forward for unwed fathers and their rights to parent and share in the responsibilities for their children. We recognize that understanding these changes can be challenging, and we are here to help.
At the DeWitt Law Firm, we are committed to guiding you through the complex intricacies of Florida’s divorce and paternity laws. Contact us today for more information on how these changes may impact your case and to learn how we can support you in your journey towards establishing and exercising your rights as a father.