How To Establish Paternity In Florida

Studies show children with involved fathers have an advantage compared to children with distant relationships with their dads. Whether the relationship is biological, adopted, or unmarried consummated devotion these factors play a critical role in establishing the father’s paternity.

Fathers have been fighting for neutral custody of their children for years. Still today, paternity in Florida isn’t any easier, but with the help of an Orlando divorce attorney, child custody and child support is awarded fairly.

Matrimonial Paternal Rights

Paternity in Florida represents over 16,000 family court action filings each year. To legally recognize a father’s rights of child custody he needs to file a paternity action establishing paternity.

It’s presumed the husband is the biological father for children born during a marriage. The statute of limitations for challenging the father’s paternity begins when he signs the hospital’s paternity acknowledgment form after the child’s birth.

Each year the Florida Office of the State Court Administrator reports family court filings. Orlando divorce attorneys handle the largest percent of court filings (paternity) compared to civil, criminal or probate.

  • YE 2016 -2017 Florida family court filings (paternity) rose to 38.5 percent, up from 2008 at 28.2 percent.
  • Fathers are blocked or severely limited to time-sharing with their children during the divorce proceedings or separations.
  • Florida encourages a father’s involvement and his legal responsibilities to child support.

Cohabitating Paternity

The percentage of couples choosing to cohabitate before and after the birth of a child continues to rise. Establishing paternity gets complicated when the couple separates.

In most cases, unwed fathers have absolutely no legal rights to their children. The biological mother has full physical and legal custody of the children until the father can legally establish paternity.

  • U.S. Census reported almost 25 percent of Florida household were unmarried adults in 2001.
  • In 2018, 8.5 million unmarried couples were living together in the U.S.
  • Cohabitating partners represent more than 1 million homes with at least two children.

Merely being identified on the birth certificate as the father, does not lawfully prove parental rights in the eyes of the court. Before paternity in Florida can be ascertained, an affidavit of paternity is needed to begin the paternity action. Experienced Orlando divorce attorneys work with the father to authenticate his claims of fatherhood.

Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement

Sometimes voluntary paternity occurs for married or unwed couples with children. Orlando attorneys ensure a father’s rights to have a healthy relationship with the child or children.

Here, the mother and legally recognized father will sign under oath a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. In Florida, the document is an admission of the child’s legal father for establishing paternity. The action supports parental legal rights, child custody responsibilities including visitations, active participation in raising the child and child support.

  • Fathers failing to exercise paternity rights could lose custodial rights.
  • More important, the child’s development is impacted without the emotional bonds and financially support.

Before signing the acknowledgment document, each parent needs to consider the consequences because it is irrevocable in most situations. After signing, the courts accept the father as the person with legal rights to the child.

For more information on paternity situations and strategies valued by the State of Florida to support a father’s parental rights, please contact our office.

Fathers believing, they have lawful rights to participate in a child’s life and need assistance in establishing paternity, or wish to contest the court orders, should discuss the circumstances, and consider trustworthy counsel on legal paternity resolutions.

The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time of year spent with loved ones. Some families have a little more stress during this season, however. Split families have to share child custody during the holidays. This can be a stressful situation for parents to decide on and, with some many emotions involved, may require help from an Orlando divorce attorney.

With the holidays quickly approaching, now is the time to begin working out a time sharing and visitation schedule for child custody during the holidays. By getting it all figured out now, it can prevent unnecessary stress, confusion, and arguments with the other parent when the time comes. Even if you have joint custody or pay child support, you still need to have a holiday schedule in place.

When the courts become involved in a child custody or Orlando divorce case, the judge almost always grants joint custody or shared custody of the child. This means shared holidays, too. The only time this isn’t the case is when the judge believes it would be detrimental to the child to have to spend more time with a certain parent.

How to Split Child Custody During the Holidays

Most often, a judge will split time during the holidays so that both parents are able to spend an adequate amount of time with the child. This usually means that the judge will grant some kind of time sharing order to the parents that is different than their normal joint custody schedule.

The child custody agreement will likely be different during the holidays than during the rest of the year. Even if the parents have joint custody, one parent pays child support, or one parent only gets one weekend a month, the agreement during the holidays will probably be different.

The two parents can decide how to split up the holidays themselves, but sometimes there will be a disagreement. When this happens, the courts typically have to get involved to make sure that the shared custody schedule is fair for the holidays.

There are a couple different ways that you could split up holidays. One method may work better for your family than the other method, so it is important to think all factors through before deciding. Orlando divorce courts do what they think is best for the child, so if you and your child’s other parent can come to a fair agreement, it is one less step to do in court. The different options include:

  • Switch holidays every other year

One parent would have the child on Christmas in 2018, and the other parent would get to spend Christmas of 2019 with the child. You would do this for every holiday. If you choose to divide up visitation this way, you won’t have to miss seeing your child on a holiday for two years in a row.

  • Split the holiday in half

One parent will get the child in the morning, and the other parent will get to have the child for the rest of the day. This option requires the most planning because you will have to figure in traveling. If you live far from the other parent, a portion of your child’s holiday will be spent traveling, and that isn’t always best.

  • Have the same scheduled holiday every year

This would mean that the parent who gets Christmas gets it every year, and the other parent never gets to spend Christmas with the child. This is important to think about, as well, because both parents will have to sacrifice some of the holidays.

Final Thoughts on Sharing Parenting Time During the Holidays

Both parents want to spend the holidays with their child, but in the case of Orlando divorce, parents are required to split the holidays in some way. If you are struggling to set up a joint custody or child support agreement during the holidays, an Orlando divorce attorney might be the way to go.

What To Do If Paternity Fraud Happens To You

Paternity fraud is an issue that has occurred to a surprising amount of men. Indeed, pop stars Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber have both written songs about the issue of this type of fraud. Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” came out in 1983 and if you listen closely to the lyrics you will realize what the song is about. Justin Bieber’s “Believe” came out in 2012 and touched on the very same issue! All of this of course begs the question: what are your rights when it comes to these issues? What can you do to fight it? That is the focus of this blog entry.

First of all, it is important for the respondent to understand the ramifications of Florida paternity fraud. This fraud occurs when a woman names a man as the father of her child when the paternity of the child is in doubt. Often, the woman will know full well that the child is not really the biological offspring of the man, but will just do so to claim child support from the man. Unfortunately, there are a number of men who have only found out several years after the fact that they were not, in fact, the biological father of the child. An individual that has determined they are the victim of paternity fraud will need to fully analyze the situation to determine what recourse they should look for.

Of course, the first thing they need to do is to contact a domestic litigation attorney as soon as possible who is experienced in Florida child support laws. Interestingly enough, a lot of men think that all they have to do is simply submit a DNA test to prove they are not the biological father and this will settle the issue. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. The reason for this is because of a tricky legal phrase called “the best interests of the child.” If several years have passed where the complainant has acted as the father of the child, a negative DNA test may not be sufficient to convince a court to vacate Florida paternity and child support expectations. In actuality, about the only way for a court to vacate a child support order would be for the man to be able to prove that the fraud has taken place. In that vein, there are a number of questions a man facing a false paternity case should ask themselves.

Some sample questions regarding this would be this: did she ever tell you that you were not the real father? Did she tell anyone else that you weren’t the real father? Did she send you any emails, make any phone calls, or do anything that is retrievable that would prove you weren’t the real father? If so, you just might be able to get a court to set aside a Florida child support order and establish Florida paternity fraud.

When it comes to Florida paternity laws, you also need to understand there are a number of ways a court looks at the father relationship. First, there is the “acknowledged father” who admits that he is the biological father of the child. Next, there is the “presumed father” who is someone who married the mother, tried to marry the mother, or was married to the mother when the birth took place.

With Florida paternity laws, a couple other factors in a case would include timing and whether the presumed father can determine who the biological father is. Of course, timing is everything. Contesting the paternity should ideally happen right after the presumed father suspects the child isn’t his. Moreover, if the presumed father knows who the biological father is, there are cases where he has been able to successfully sue him for restitution.

Of course, if you are questioning whether you are the biological father of a child, time is of the essence. Contact a domestic litigation attorney as soon as possible to go over your rights and what avenues you can take regarding your Florida parental case.

Ways To Make Divorce Easier On Children

Divorce is not easy on anyone, especially the kids. While the marriage may be over, both parties still owe their children love, attention, and support in all forms. In order to make that happen, it’s crucial for both parents to ensure their kids know they are there for them. Here are six approaches that many Orlando divorce attorneys will suggest to clients who want to make divorce easier for the children.

1. Tell Them Together

It’s the ethical responsibility of both parents to sit down with the children and explain that the family is about to go through an Orlando divorce. While it’s not necessary to provide specifics about the reasons behind the divorce, do help the kids understand that the end of the marriage does not mean the end of the family. It just means not everyone will be living under the same roof and that a plan for child custody will be created.

If the kids need to vent, let them. The focus here is not on what the parents are feeling. It’s about helping the kids to understand what’s happening. That may require hearing some hard words from the children, but it’s better for them to let it out now than try to keep it in.

2. Create and Abide By a Reasonable Visitation Schedule

A child custody arrangement can take on many forms. One parent may have sole custody while the other is granted visitation rights. Even in a shared custody arrangement, one parent will serve as the custodial parent while the other party is designated as the non-custodial parent. The goal of the court and the Orlando divorce attorney is to ensure the children have regular access to both parents via a workable time sharing plan.

3. But Be Flexible

While there’s a time sharing plan in place, remember to be flexible. If a child has a school activity on a visitation weekend, work together to reschedule the visit. Alternatively, the non-custodial parent must be willing to step in and help if the custodial parent is ill or needs to be out of town at a time other than the regularly scheduled visitation weekend.

4. Never Use Visitation to Punish the Other Parent

Always remember that visitation after an Orlando divorce is about maintaining a healthy and loving relationship with the children. It’s not about whatever negative feelings the former partners have about one another. Never withhold or otherwise use visitation time as a way to get back at the other parent.

This means that custodial parents should do everything possible to ensure non-custodial parents can see the kids according to the child custody arrangement. In like manner, non-custodial parents should make sure the kids are returned to custodial parents on time.

5. Don’t Fight in Front of the Children

Whatever went on before the Orlando divorce, the two parties with shared custody should never fight in front of the kids again. Even when it may be difficult, remain civil to one another when the kids are around. Should the need arise to have a heated discussion, it can take place away from the children. If necessary, the two lawyers who helped create the child custody arrangement can intervene and help the parents avoid involving the kids in whatever is causing the issue.

6. Never Speak Negatively About the Other Parent in Front of the Kids

Even when the other parent is not around, it’s important to not speak negatively about the other party in front of the kids. This can be a little more difficult, especially if a child is complaining about the other parent. Even when it would be so easy to talk about how childish, immature, or irresponsible the other parent happens to be, resist the temptation.

An Orlando divorce attorney can help the client navigate the legal system and create a child custody arrangement that’s in compliance with current laws. The attorney also has a lot to offer about making the divorce easier for the kids. Take those suggestions to heart and use them at least until the kids are on their own. In the long run, the children will adjust with less difficulty and be assured that both parents still love and want them.

Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Divorce Lawyer

A divorce is a very serious matter. Each member of the partnership needs to make sure their needs are met. One of the best ways to resolve the dissolution of a partnership is with help from an Orlando divorce attorney. A divorce lawyer can offer many important services. The Orlando divorce attorney serves as the client’s voice during the divorce proceedings. They make sure that the Orlando divorce proceeds smoothly. They can also help with other issues such as child care arrangements, fiscal support and the division of any existing properties held in common. Before speaking to a divorce lawyer, it’s a good idea to think about the kind of questions to ask during any meeting. This can help any client narrow down their potential lawyers and decide which one is right for their specific circumstances.

Area of Practice

One of the most important questions that anyone seeking an Orlando divorce lawyer should ask is about the lawyer’s area of practice. Find out if the lawyer specializes in divorces. Some may only do this form of legal assistance only occasionally while others do more divorce cases each year. Ask them how long they’ve been practicing divorce law. A lawyer may be what is known as a certified family specialist that indicates many years of experience in this area. If you have a complicated Orlando divorce, this can be an example of someone with much needed expertise.

Strategic Examples

It’s a good idea to have documents with the basics of the case laid out in advance before showing up. Doing so can help the lawyer provide the kind of answers that people need as their case begins. A lawyer should be able to examine the documents in question and then offer suggestions about what may happen going forward. The lawyer can indicate roughly how long the case might take to resolve and what kind of relevant legal issues might apply in their client’s case. They can also indicate what strategies might work best and what approaches may be less indicated in order to get at the desired outcome.

The Number of People

A client should know how many people will be working with them. A large firm may have an attorney on staff entirely devoted to the practice of divorce law. In that case, that person will be their contact as the case continues. Find out all who will be working on the case. This includes any paralegals as well as other legal professionals. Ask if it is possible to meet with everyone who is working on the case before it begins. Putting a human face on a case can serve as motivation for staffers that leads them to put even more effort to get to the best possible results.

Kinds of Costs

Costs are a major factor during and divorce. It’s good to find out as much as possible about all fees related to any divorce. Any divorce lawyer should be able to answer all questions related to billing well in advance. Ask about the estimated total cost. Keep in mind that this can be hard to estimate until the case begins. A good attorney will say so to their clients. Ask about communication with the other person and any attorney they hire. An attorney should be able to indicate hourly costs as well as any other costs such as the costs of investigator and any other officials that might be involved in some way.

Asking such questions can help anyone find the right legal help during all stages of the divorce.

Is A 50/50 Time Sharing Good For A Child?

Children are the ones who should be considered first in a divorce or paternity case. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to determining what is in the best interest of a child. Every family and situation is different. While a 50/50 time sharing solution may be perfect for some families, it may not be ideal for others. Even though most people agree that all children need to spend quality time with both parents, joint custody may not always be best for a child. Parents going through a divorce or possibly a paternity action should focus on their own relationship and the effect it can have on the child. While some children flourish with a 50/50 time-sharing arrangement, there are several circumstances where this is not the case.

Parents Living a Long Distance from Each Other
It would not be fair to a child to have to travel back and forth during the school year to be able to attend a chosen school. It would require the child having to travel much earlier in the morning and would limit participation in after-school extracurricular activities. A child needs a consistent schedule to be able to maintain academic performance. The travel time from one home to the other makes it difficult to get adequate rest and keep up with homework.

Children with Special Needs
A child with autism, ADHD, developmental delays, or a physical or medical condition is easily frustrated by change. It is plausible that one parent works better with the child than the other. Constantly changing the environment is probably not in the best interest of this child. Joint custody is probably not in the best interest of a child with special needs.

Legal and Physical Child Custody
In an Orlando divorce case, the parents can choose a parenting plan outside the courtroom if they can agree. A parent with legal child custody is responsible for making decisions regarding medical care, discipline, religion, and education. Physical custody refers to the location where the child will reside once the child custody decision is made. Child support decisions are usually based on both parents’ ability to maintain a child’s current lifestyle.

Research Results are Inconclusive
Child custody issues have been debated for several years. Much of the psychological research that has been conducted supports that equal time-sharing visitation may be best for some children, but not for all. This arrangement only works when each family devises a schedule that best suits their own current situation. The dynamics of all families are different and requires parents to agree on a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the children. Joint custody and shared custody allow children to have substantial contact with both parents. Child support is not a big issue with parents who work together.

A Family Law Assessment Can Help Determine the Best Custody Arrangement
An experienced family law attorney can offer legal advice for families attempting to negotiate child custody issues in an Orlando divorce. Erin E. Morse and her competent staff handle all issues that may arise with a couple going through an Orlando divorce. She can explain the benefits of having two parents who are involved in their children’s lives on a daily basis. Shared custody or joint custody allows parents to e share the responsibility for raising the children equally. As a family law attorney, Erin E. Morse helps families make the tough decisions that must be addressed after an Orlando divorce. Issues such as child support and visitation schedules require sensitivity and empathy when determining what is best for children. Joint custody is all about positive co-parenting and is the answer for many; however, it may not be the answer if one parent is more involved with the children than the other one.

My Ex Just Got Served The Divorce Papers And Now They Are Angry

Divorces are typically a time of heightened emotion and stress. Almost always, there is some amount of surprise for the spouse who receives a divorce petition, but for some spouses, that surprise turns to anger. So what do you do if your spouse gets angry after receiving your petition for divorce?

How Normal Is This?

Although there are some situations where spouses are in full agreement leading up to a divorce, most spouses do not react well to being served divorce papers. A thorough divorce petition, especially one drafted by a divorce lawyer, will include a number of claims and ask the court to award everything that you are entitled to receive. This can be overwhelming, surprising, and sometimes angering for your spouse. However, it needs to be this thorough in order to prepare for your best possible case.

What Will Your Spouse Want?

A spouse who has become angered by divorce papers will often make several requests of you. These might include dismissing your divorce petition, coming to a settlement or “agreement,” or going through mediation without the assistance of a divorce lawyer. However, it is important that you do not back down. Even if you are interested in settlement, you should be sure that any negotiations take place with the help of your divorce lawyer.

Don’t Retract Your Divorce Filing

The only way your case will ever get to a judge is if there is a divorce filing in the system. If your ultimate goal is to get a divorce, retracting or dismissing your petition will only delay or prevent you from getting a divorce.

How Well Do You Communicate, Really?

It is likely, if you are divorcing your spouse, that the two of you do not communicate very well. Settlement agreements need to be very thorough and should include several disclosures about your finances and assets. Otherwise, you may come to regret reaching this agreement. Remember, even as your spouse tries to pressure you into a settlement on your own, you can always reach a settlement with the help of an attorney who will work to protect your rights.

Mediation is Mandatory

Your spouse may try to encourage you to enter mediation as an “alternative” to divorce proceedings. However, mediation is a step in all Florida Divorces, as well as Florida Paternity actions. Your spouse might also suggest that you go through mediation without the assistance of an attorney. However, your divorce attorney can keep you informed of your rights and the consequences of any agreement that you might make.

How to React

Along with these requests, your spouse may express their anger in other ways, like calling you names, calling your lawyer names, or making legal threats. The best thing you can do is to ignore this behavior. Keep a record of how they react; save the angry text messages and respond politely, if you respond at all. This can all be potential evidence in court.

However, you should also remember that their reaction is not necessarily a reflection on who they are as a person or a parent. Your spouse has experienced one of the worst days of their life. Hopefully, a week or so after receiving divorce papers, they will calm down, and whatever minimal interactions you must have during your case can be as polite and calm as possible, given the situation.