If you’re in the process of separating from a partner to whom you were never married, you might be relieved that you don’t have to deal with divorce proceedings. However, if you have children with your partner, you do need to pay attention to the laws surrounding child custody. In particular, if you live in or around Milton, Florida or the Florida Panhandle, it’s important that you understand Florida’s child custody laws.
Florida Law on Child Custody
As in most states, when the parents are not married, the mother of the child automatically gets the right to primary custody. The only way this is not a given is when the mother is considered an unfit parent, due to problems like drugs, child abuse or incarceration.
If your name is on the birth certificate as the father of the child, this is a good first step toward you getting some type of custody or at least visitation, which is called time sharing in Florida.
If your name is not on the birth certificate, you will need to file a Petition to Establish Paternity to prove you are the biological father. After this is clear, you can file petitions to establish either custody — which is called parental responsibility in Florida — or time sharing.
Establishing Primary Custody
Once your paternity has been established, you need to determine how much time you want to seek with your child. If you want to be the primary custodial parent, it will be up to you and your lawyer to show why this would be best for the child. This is because Florida courts go by the best interests of the child when making decisions regarding parental responsibility and time sharing.
If you believe you would be the right custodial parent, you typically need to show proof that the child’s other parent is unfit. As long as you can prove that you would provide the safest, most stable life for your child, you may have a chance of getting primary custody in Florida.
If you have any questions or are ready to proceed with your child custody case, please contact Laura S. Coleman today. You can reach our Milton, FL office at (850) 626-8520.