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Can I get custody of my child as an unmarried father?

Florida courts seek to provide for the best interests of children when they make custody decisions. Whether they are establishing physical custody and visitation schedules, legal custody, or both, courts must weigh many factors in order to understand how their parents and other relatives may provide and care for the children when they are under the adults' control. Generally, parents are able to secure physical and legal custody of their children, but as an unmarried father, a man may have a few obstacles to hurdle in order to achieve his custody wishes.

First, if the man has not had his relationship with the child legally acknowledged then he may have to submit to paternity testing. A paternity test shows whether a man is biologically related to a child and if the results of the test are positive then the man may be able to pursue custodial rights to the child. If the test results are negative receiving custody of a child may not be possible for the man.

Second, if an unmarried man is recognized as a child's father, then he may have to file a petition with a court in the jurisdiction where the child lives in order to have his custody matter heard. During that hearing, the court will assess the interests of the child, create a parenting plan that sets forth the parents responsibilities to the child and decide other important matters related to the child's care.

Fathers who believe that their children's mothers may be abusive or causing harm to their children may seek to have temporary custody orders put into place to keep the children from being harmed by their potentially dangerous mothers. Other matters may arise as a man works to establish custodial rights over his child and as such individuals in this difficult situation are encouraged to discuss their needs with family law attorneys.

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