Legal Primary Residential Custody

by Angrinsoni from Tampa, Florida, Hillsborough County

How do I file for legal primary residential custody of my 3 year old? When my ex-girlfriend and I split up 2 years ago she left our daughter with me to live with. Up until 2 months ago she has moved out of state.

How do I file legally to make sure that my ex can not come and take her from me?

Answer to Florida Child Custody Question

Dear Angrinsoni,

From what you wrote it sounds like your ex-girlfriend has recently returned to the area, and you are in fear that she will simply pick up your daughter and take her away.

Your fears are well founded. Since you were never married, until you are recognized as the legal father of your daughter, you have few rights.

The first step is to file Florida Supreme Court approved form 12.983(a), Petition to Determine Paternity and For Related Relief, which can be found on the Supreme Court's website. Have a look at our web-powered instructions page for the Florida Petition to Determine Paternity form. The form allows you to state that you are the father of the child; and request custody and child support.

There is space on the form to state your reasons for requesting custody. Florida courts prefer to allow children to maintain relationships with both parents, unless it is not in the child's best interest.

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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Gaining Custody As An Unmarried Father
by: Daniel from Kissimmee, Florida, Osceola County

Does having my child as a dependent on my tax returns help with present or future custody?

--My suggestion is to talk this over with your accountant or tax advisor, and also your child's mother. In general, the parent who the child lives with more than 6 months of the year is entitled to claim the child as a dependent. Both parents, if living apart may not claim the child as a dependent for the same tax year.

Some couples in similar situations agree to alternate years for claiming the child as a dependent on their tax return. For more information go to and search for dependent child, and take a look at the IRS filing requirements for dependents page, Publication 929.

As far as gaining custody of the child, you should have filed a Florida Parenting Plan, Supreme Court approved Form 12.995(b), which spells out your custody and time sharing arrangements. There are other forms that must be filed along with the Parenting Plan, whether or not you were ever married to the child's mother. See our Parenting Plans in Florida page for more info. --Staff

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