Who Has Custody of a Child if There Is No Court Order?
If you and your child’s other parent are no longer together but you’ve never gone to court to get an order regarding parental responsibility (custody) and time-sharing (visitation), you may be wondering who has custody of the child. In Florida, the answer generally depends on your marital status at the time your child was born:
- Married – If you and the other parent were married at the time of your child’s birth, then you both are considered to be natural guardians with equal rights.
- Unmarried – If you and the other parent were unmarried at the time your child was born, then only the mother is considered to be the natural guardian (this is still the case even if the child’s birth certificate includes the father’s name). The father will not have custody or any other parental rights until there’s a court order in place.
How to Get a Child Custody Court Order
If you’re an unwed father and you’re looking to legally establish your parental rights in Florida, you’ll need to file a notice with Florida’s Putative Father Registry, thereby letting all parties know that there’s a pending paternity claim and ensuring that you’ll be notified whenever an action is filed regarding your child (for instance, a petition for adoption or a petition to terminate parental rights). Once that notice has been filed, you’ll have to also file an action for paternity.
It’s important to have a skilled family law attorney on your side to guide you through this process. Fortunately, if you’re in the Tampa Bay area, you can turn to the Law Offices of Audrey A. Jefferis, P.A., a trusted firm with locations in New Port Richey and Palm Harbor. We have extensive experience with paternity lawsuits, child custody cases, and much more, and we’ll work hard to help you obtain the relief you desire. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.