Navigating the complex world of parental rights and responsibilities can be challenging, particularly for unmarried parents in Florida. As the laws in the state continue to evolve, it is essential for unmarried parents to understand their rights and responsibilities concerning their children. Florida family law plays a significant role in determining issues such as custody, child support, and visitation for both mothers and fathers, even if they were never married.

One key aspect of Florida law for unmarried parents is the establishment of paternity, which can grant certain rights to biological fathers. This not only includes involvement in the child’s life but also sharing decision-making authority and access to the child’s medical and educational records. Establishing paternity is crucial to ensure that fathers can exercise their rights and contribute to their children’s well-being.

Beyond biology, however, both unmarried mothers and fathers have a shared responsibility to provide the necessary emotional and financial support their child needs. This includes communication, collaboration, and respecting each parent’s unique relationship with the child. Understanding and adhering to Florida’s legal framework helps unmarried parents build a strong foundation for their child’s future and ensure the best possible outcomes.

Legal Framework for Unmarried Parents in Florida

Establishing Paternity in Florida

In Florida, establishing paternity is crucial for unmarried fathers to secure their parental rights. If a child is born to unmarried parents, the mother is automatically granted sole legal and physical custody until paternity is established. Unmarried fathers can establish paternity through various means, such as court actions or the execution of a notarized voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.

In 2023, a new legislation, HB 775, was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Benjamin and strongly supported by the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, significantly changed the legal landscape for unmarried parents in Florida. Before this law, the mother was presumed to be the natural guardian of the child, entitled to 100% of time-sharing until a court order was established. With the new law in place, once legal paternity is confirmed, an unwed father is presumed to have full and equal parental rights to that of the mother.

Rights and Responsibilities of Unmarried Parents

Under the new legal framework, unmarried parents in Florida have more equal rights and responsibilities, provided that paternity is established. The Florida Statute states that both parents have a constitutional right to maintain a relationship with their child and denies any preference to mothers over fathers upon legally establishing paternity.

This change in the legal landscape requires unmarried fathers to take the necessary legal steps to establish paternity and secure their parental rights. With HB 775 in place, a man can obtain parenting rights without going to court, as long as he and the child’s mother sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.


Furthermore, the new legislation aims to provide a fairer platform for time-sharing and decision-making regarding the child’s welfare. Both unwed parents have to consider the best interests of the child, and it’s important to note that existing laws related to child support and other financial responsibilities still apply.

The changes brought about by HB 775 have made significant strides in ensuring a more balanced approach to the rights and responsibilities of unmarried parents in Florida. By establishing paternity and navigating the legal processes, unmarried fathers can now secure their parental rights and contribute meaningfully to their child’s upbringing.

Parenting and Support Obligations

Custody and Visitation Rights

In Florida, both unmarried parents have the right to participate in their child’s life. To establish custody and visitation rights for unmarried parents, a parenting plan must be created and submitted to the court, which outlines the time-sharing arrangements and decision-making responsibilities. It is essential for both parents to cooperate and agree on this plan to ensure the best interests of the child are met.

Paternity must be established for unmarried fathers to obtain custody or visitation rights. This can be done voluntarily by signing an acknowledgment form at the child’s birth or through a DNA paternity test if disputed. Once paternity is established, an unmarried father can petition for custody and visitation rights, depending on his relationship with the child and the specific circumstances surrounding their situation.

Florida law also provides additional protections for unmarried fathers after July 1, 2023. The new law changes Florida Statute 742, which governs parental rights, child support, and responsibilities for both parents related to a newborn child. These changes allow many unwed fathers to automatically receive specific parental rights that formerly went exclusively to the mother of the newborn child.

Child Support and Financial Responsibilities

Financial support is vital for a child’s well-being, and both unmarried parents share the responsibility of providing this support. In Florida, child support is determined by the combined income of both parents and is calculated according to the time-sharing arrangements established in the parenting plan. Unmarried parents can petition the court for child support, and the non-custodial parent will likely be required to make payments based on these calculations.

Unmarried mothers have been considered the primary natural guardians for their children in Florida, which means they bear the primary financial responsibility for their children under current state law. However, with the changes to Florida Statute 742 taking effect on July 1, 2023, unmarried fathers will also have equal rights and responsibilities in many cases.

In summary, unmarried parents in Florida must establish a parenting plan outlining custody, visitation, and financial support agreements. Paternity should be confirmed for unmarried fathers to secure their rights and responsibilities towards their children. The 2023 law changes provide more protections and opportunities for unwed fathers, allowing them to be more involved in their child’s life.

In Conclusion

In recent years, Florida has made several changes to its laws concerning the rights and responsibilities of unmarried parents. These changes aim to provide greater equality for both mothers and fathers while ensuring the best interests of the children involved.

As part of the legal process, establishing paternity is crucial for unmarried fathers. Once paternity is confirmed, the father is entitled to rights and protections under Florida law. This includes access to important decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, and medical care.

Florida courts now encourage shared parental responsibility for unmarried parents, which involves collaborating on major decisions about the child’s upbringing. To facilitate this, parents should create a comprehensive parenting plan outlining time-sharing schedules and communication methods.


Here is a list of essential steps for unmarried parents navigating Florida’s custody laws:

  • Establish legal paternity
  • Create a parenting plan
  • Seek legal representation if necessary
  • Maintain clear and respectful communication
  • Prioritize the best interests of the child

Legal support can be crucial for unmarried parents in Florida. Family law attorneys can provide the necessary guidance and representation to ensure a fair and just outcome for all parties involved.

Florida has made progress in recognizing the equal importance of both parents in a child’s life, regardless of their marital status. Unmarried parents should be aware of their rights and responsibilities, and prioritize their children’s best interests above all else.