Paternity / Child Custody

Determination of Paternity is the legal name for establishing parental rights for minor children when the parents are unmarried.  It is called this even if the actual fatherhood is not in dispute.  Any parent who has a child outside of marriage must eventually do a paternity case.  When the parents are getting along, possibly even in an intact relationship these types of cases may be resolved amicably with little expense. In some cases it is possible to resolve this type of case for a flat fee. In a paternity case three things will be address.  Parental responsibility, time-sharing, and child support.

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility addresses the decision making for the child.  There are basically three alternate forms of parental responsibility in Florida: shared parental responsibility, shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making, and sole parental responsibility. Florida Statute 61.13 outlines the factors the court must consider when making a determination of parental responsibility.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Florida has a strong presumption for shared parental responsibility. Shared parental responsibility is appropriate when both parents are able to effectively communicate with each other about parenting decisions regarding their children. Disputes are resolved in a mature manner and resolved without court intervention.

Shared Parental Responsibility with Ultimate Decision Making granted to One Parent

Shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making granted to one parent is appropriate when both parents have communication disputes and cannot effectively resolve conflicts over their decisions. Both parents are considered to be effective parents and this form of parental responsibility should not be considered to be a strike against the parenting abilities of the non-decision making parent. However, the non-decision making parent will have demonstrated to the court an inability to co-parent with the other parent in a way where the court determines that in the best interest of the minor child, ultimate decision making should be granted to the other parent.

Sole Parental Responsibility

Sole parental responsibility is rare and is only granted in the most extreme cases.  Sole parental responsibility is ordered when one parent has demonstrated to the court an inability to properly exercise parental responsibility and it is in the best interest of the minor child that only one parent have parental responsibility.

Time Sharing

A common misconception is that mothers have sole natural rights to child to the exclusion of the father. In practice this is incorrect and really both parents should consider that the minor child has equal rights to both parents.  Under current law there is no “standard schedule,”  The Court will establish a timesharing schedule which is in the best interest of the individual child for the case.

Child Support

Child support is paid in Florida using a statutory formula taking into consideration the net monthly income of the parents and the percentage of overnights the minor child spends with each parent along with some additional considerations including health care and daycare expenses.

In short, the paramount issue in any paternity case is the individual needs of the child.  It is important that parents put aside their differences and work to co parent even in hostile relationships.  Our attorneys offer solutions and problem solving approach to these types of cases.  When necessary our attorneys will take these cases to trial so that the appropriate result may be obtained.