Child Custody Law & Fathers Rights

by Bob from Florida

The mother of my child has left me, what should I do? She broke up with me to "fly free" and go out to all the clubs and bars around town while I was at the house with the kids.

I let her do what she wanted, and I improved in all the qualities she wanted me to work on.

She has not had a steady job in two years, so I have been paying 100% of bills, plus all the extra that she wants. Even after she told me that we needed to break-up I still supported her by taking care of the kids and the bills.

I have given as much as I possibly could to her, and she paid me back by leaving to 'go out' every other night. Now she has taken our child to go stay with her brother and she's talking about moving to New York. I told her that if she was going to move across the country like that, then I was going to do what I had to do in order to keep my son with me.

She told me that there was "no way in hell she would give up HER child". I bought a laptop this past February with my tax return, I came home from work Saturday and the door was unlocked and my laptop was missing. I asked her if she had it and she told me she "didn't know".

Well seeing how the door was unlocked when I got home, I assumed it had been stolen. After telling her that I was thinking about calling in stolen goods in my apartment she retracted her previous statement and told me that she did have it and that it was hers.

Now, I have been through plenty of relationships and plenty of break-ups, and i know what to expect, but this is my first time ending a relationship that involves a child. I'm not sure how I should handle this from here...

Answer to Florida Child Custody Question

Dear Bob,

I gather from your question that you were never married to the mother of your child. Your first step is to legally establish paternity. If your last name is on the child's birth certificate, that is only the first step in the process.

Your next step is to file Florida Family Law form, Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief with the Family Law Clerk of Court in your county. This form and accompanying forms can be found on the Florida Supreme Court website. Carefully read and follow the form instructions.

Forms which must be filed along with the Petition to Determine Paternity are listed in the instructions for that form. The "Related Relief" referred to in the form's title include, child support, time-sharing (visitation), and custody, among other important considerations. Have a look at our web-powered instructions page for the Florida Petition to Determine Paternity form.

It is important that you file this quickly, before she removes the child from the state. Retaining Florida's jurisdiction of the child, is a far easier process than requesting the courts to return the child to Florida, after he has been removed.

And, until you have legally established paternity, you will not be recognized by the courts as the child's father. Regarding your laptop: From what you wrote, it sounds like she is claiming that the laptop was a gift from you to her.

If she continues to refuse to return it to you, your option is to file a claim in small claims court. Many county courthouses have a free small claims forms package.

Your statement of claim will include a request to the court that she be ordered to either return the laptop to you; or to reimburse you for the cost of the laptop. It is your job to prove to the court that the laptop was not a gift, and that she took it from you without your permission.

Notice: We provide these answers to the general public and our website visitors as a means to further their online legal research. These answers are merely suggestions and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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Comments for Child Custody Law & Fathers Rights

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Mother Relocated Without My Knowledge
by: Guy from Ocala, Florida

I have a son just over one year old. The mother and I were never married. I am on the birth certificate and provided sole support for my son. Approx 6 months ago the mother left and took my son and I have not known his whereabouts since. I have called her cell phone continuously. Last week she asnwered the phone and said she moved him from Ocala (my sons residence) to Greensboro Florida and she is demanding child support.

What are my rights as we have no court documents as she just up and moved and ran away with our son. I have sole custody of my 7 year old son from my precious marriage and this seperation from his younger brother has also affected him. Pleas someone help me. Thank you

--Just because you are on the birth certificate does not necessarily mean you have legal rights to your son. As an unmarried biological father, you must have your parental rights established. Until you do, your son's mother can legally move wherever she wants to without getting your permission or the court's permission.

My suggestion to you is to file a Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief, Form 12.983(a). You can then file a Parenting Plan with a visitation schedule and solve this problem once and for all. --Staff

Winning Custody for Father
by: Timothy from Arcadia, Florida

My daughter is 28 months old and has lived with me for 22 months if not more. I filed for child support and the mother became angry and took her from me. Do I stand a chance of winning custody?

--In theory, Florida courts do not favor one parent's gender over the other. Years ago, there was a way of thinking called, "tender years doctrine" where Florida judges believed that the best choice for custody for young children was almost always with the mother. Nowadays, the courts support the concept -- "best interests of the child" -- in making child custody determinations. Judges nowadays also generally try to allow "shared parental responsibility" if at all possible.

In shared parental responsibility both parents share in decisions regarding the child, even though the child may live with one parent more of the time than the other. More than anything, Florida judges would like for parents to be reasonable and mature in all issues regarding their children. --Staff

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