Florida Legal Information - Steven deLaroche
Frequently Asked Questions - Parental Responsibility in Florida

Criminal Defense, Business Law, and Family Law from an experienced attorney in Daytona Beach, contact Steven deLaroche, Attorney at Law at 386-947-0909.

Parental Rights for Unmarried Parents

Florida passed a new law that became effective on July 1st, 2023 that affects the parental rights of a father when the parents of a newborn child are unmarried. The new law automatically confers an equal status to both the mother and father of a newborn child. One of the specific parts of the law reads:

“The mother of a child born out of wedlock and a father who has established paternity are the natural guardians of the child and are entitled and subject to the rights and responsibilities of parents.”

In the past, the mother was was always considered the natural guardian of the child. The new law, ensures that the father, if he is on the birth certificate or has been legally established as the father, now has an equal standing with regard to parental rights. So, in addition to the responsibility of child support, unmarried fathers have rights to participate in the medical, education, and religious decisions about their child.

This all sounds fair, however, the legislature left a lot of the details out of the law. Questions still need to be answered about how the unmarried parents will share these rights and responsibilities. If you are an unmarried father of a newborn child you should consult a knowlegeable family law attorney to learn about your rights. 

Custody: What it means today in Florida

A growing problem in the internet age is false or outdated information.  We often see new clients who come to us with ideas about child custody that they have researched on their computers; or worse, they have gotten advice from family and friends. When they come to me, they are surprised to find out that “custody” is no longer a word used in Florida Family Law.

The legislature has divided what was once known as custody into two parts.  Florida Statute 61.13 splits the old custody term into Parental Responsibly and a Parenting Plan. This was done because, under the old system, you had someone with primary custody and someone with secondary custody. This created a natural tension between the parties that greatly interfered with the parents’ primary mission:  raising the child(ren) together. We are Americans; no one wants to be second. The primary tended to think of themselves as king of the kids, and the secondary looked at him- or herself as getting the worst of the deal. Number two was always looking for a way to knock off number one, and number one was frequently looking for a way to show number two their proper place in the pecking order. In addition, number two had to pay child support to number one; a situation that did not promote harmony. The system was changed to eliminate the conflict between the parents brought on by the custody labels.

Parental Responsibly is the decision-making ability that affects the child: when is bed time; what they are allowed to eat; where they go to school; when they drive; rules about smart phones, etc. Parental Responsibility encourages joint decisions – unless one person is generally not doing a good job of running their own life, and the Court decides that he/she has no business making decisions for another person. Sometimes a court will carve out a part of the Parental Responsibility and award it to one person if this is the case. I have clients that have sole medical decision-making capacity because the other party was demonstrated to be so cheap that they would not take the child to the doctor.

Parenting Plan is defined as time-sharing with the child. The child goes back and forth between the parents’ homes, and no one parent is the primary or the secondary. Time-sharing can take many forms, depending on the wishes or schedules of the parties. I often hear “I want to share 50/50.” I then ask what that means in terms of days of the week, and they are uncertain. It can mean a week on, a week off; three days, then four; or something entirely different. The most important part of a Parenting Plan is to allow the child(ren) to feel at home wherever they are, and not to shuttle them back and forth so rapidly that their lives are in a constant state of changing environments,  packing and unpacking.  A Parenting Plan can be one parent having more time than the other parent, or one parent only having minimal contact with the child(ren), if the court finds it is in the child’s/childrens’ best interests.

At the Law Office of Steven deLaroche, we can assist you in deciding what type of child rearing arrangement will work best, given your unique situation. Please give us a call at (386) 947-0909 to schedule a consultation.