Florida Supreme Court Gives Rights to Biological Fathers
Imagine that you are a man and are in a relationship with, or even have an affair with a woman who is married. Maybe she is about to be divorced, maybe she lives apart from her legal husband—but whatever the situation, she becomes pregnant, and you know or strongly suspect that the child is yours. Perhaps a paternity test even proves it.
You want a relationship with the child, you’re willing to pay child support and you want to raise your child. The problem is, until recently, you were a “nobody” to the child in the eyes of the law.
Presumption of Legitimacy Challenged
That’s because the law presumes that a child born to married parents is the biological child of those parents. That means that at any time you (in our hypothetical) can be shut out and excluded from your child’s life, and they (the natural mother and her husband) can raise the child how they please with no input from you and without providing you any contact with your child.
This was the situation ruled on by the Florida Supreme Court in a landmark decision regarding a biological father’s rights.
In the case, the mother said she was married to her legal husband only for “immigration reasons.” The biological father had been in a three-year relationship with the mother, took an active part in the child’s life and helped raise the child, and the child even lived with him for some time. His name was even on her birth certificate. He took the child to doctor’s visits.
When the mother reunited with her husband, they shut out the biological father. He filed for paternity and to disestablish the husband from paternity. But the married couple moved to dismiss the petition. A lower court agreed, citing the presumption of child legitimacy when parents are married. But the man took the case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Allows Paternity Challenge
The Florida Supreme Court held that a presumed biological father could in fact challenge paternity of a child born to a couple in wedlock when the biological father “manifested a substantial and continuing concern” for the child and where the alleged biological father has a “clear and compelling reason” that is based on the best interests of the child.
The case doesn’t automatically mean biological fathers get rights by proving they are genetically the child’s father—only that they will have the opportunity to have parental rights by meeting the standards and legal tests set forth by the Supreme Court.
Practically, biological fathers seeking to overcome the burden of legitimacy when a child is born to married parents should make every effort to be a part of their child’s life. They should voluntarily pay child support, even if the money is rejected.
Fathers looking to gain the legal rights that biological fathers have should be able to show why the child would be better off with the biological father in the child’s life.
If you have a paternity, custody or child support issue in Florida, contact Tampa family law attorneys at the Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group for help.