A Recent Case Questions Whether Florida Children Can Have Three Parents
We all know how important the presence of a father is in a child’s life, especially during critical development years. Unfortunately, with the rate of divorce in this country, many children grow up without a steady father figure in the home.
In a compelling case in Florida, one girl is caught in a battle between two men who are vying to be her legal father. One man is the biological father, and the other is the man married to her mother. Now, the case is highlighting a law that says a child can only have two legal parents. However, what if there are three who claim her?
Can there be three legal parents?
Florida law says that a child born into a marriage legally belongs to the husband and wife as the child’s father and mother. However, this doesn’t necessarily take into account the fact that the child may have a separate biological father.
In a recent case, one biological father is fighting in court for the right to have shared custody and parenting rights for his biological daughter who legally belongs to another man.
Legal parents are the ones who have the right to make decisions for the child, and in this case, the biological father is not considered the child’s legal father.
Two lower courts have issued entirely different rulings, in this case, one saying that the biological dad should have some rights, and the other upholding the legal father’s rights. Several people involved with the case have expressed the need for the Florida legislature to modernize the laws surrounding legal parents and paternity. Now, the case heads to the Florida Supreme Court.
Florida Paternity Law
In the state of Florida, if a woman is not married when she gives birth, paternity must be established either voluntarily or by court order. If the mother and father agree on paternity, they may sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form, which becomes final 60 days after it is signed, at which time, neither parent can revoke it. The only way this document can be revoked is if either parent can prove in court that it was fraudulently signed, or that extreme force was used to coerce one of the parents to sign.
The following individuals can start the court process to establish paternity: the child’s mother, the “alleged” father, the child through a legal representative, or the Florida Department of Child Services.
Establishing paternity is important not only because every child should have a father in his or her life if possible, but acknowledging a legal father places responsibility on the parents to ensure that the child is taken care of as he or she grows. With paternity established, a judge may make orders for items such as child support and health insurance for the child, how parents should establish parenting time and decision-making authority over the child.
In any situation where paternity is in question or is a matter for the courts, it can be difficult for any family, but especially for the child involved. If you are involved in issues of paternity, it’s essential to contact a qualified family law attorney who can guide you through the court system.
Vasilinda, M. (n.d.). Should Florida children be allowed to have three legal parents? Retrieved from http://www.wjhg.com/content/news/Should-Florida-children-be-allowed-to-have-three-legal-prents-482133051.html
Nolo. (2014, August 14). Paternity in Florida. Retrieved from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/paternity-florida.html