PATERNITY: A child that is born into a marriage is considered to be the child of the wife and husband. If a child is born out of wedlock, then the determination of paternity for that child will be governed by Florida Statutes, Section 742.10. Florida Statutes, Section 742.18 creates a procedure for a man to petition to the court to disestablish paternity and terminate a child support obligation if he is not biological father of a child.

Paternity proceedings are initiated by filing a complaint, a Petition to Establish Paternity, along with several additionally required forms. Only certain parties have the right to file a paternity action. Once the paternity action has commenced, the court may require the child, mother, and alleged father to submit to a DNA test to establish paternity. This is most common when the alleged father is contesting the paternity action.

If paternity is established, the father will be entitled to paternity legal rights, but legal responsibilities are also created. The court is therefore entitled to issue orders for time-sharing with the child(ren) and payment of child support.

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PARENTING PLAN: A Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving minor children. Florida law states that it must, at a minimum "describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child; the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent; a designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration, and other activities; and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child." Florida Statutes, Section 61.13(2)(b). If the parents cannot agree to a Parenting Plan then it will be established by the court. At times, the court requires the help of an expert in order create a Parenting Plan that is in the best interest of the child. A parenting plan has two separate components, (1) decision-making and (2) time-sharing.

  1. DECISION-MAKING: This component of the parenting plan pertains to parental responsibilities and privileges to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child(ren). Decision making can either be shared between the parents, or the court may order sole parental responsibility to one parent if shared parental responsibility will be detrimental to the child(ren). An alternative to sole parental responsibility is ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child’s welfare or division of responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child(ren).
  2. TIME-SHARING: This component of the parenting plan pertains to where the child lives at any given time and the contact with the other parent. A time-sharing schedule which specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that the child will spend with each parent must be included in the parenting plan. Time-sharing arrangements vary depending on each individual family’s situation.

*The best interests of the child(ren) will always be the primary consideration for purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule.

CHILD-SUPPORT: Child support is governed by Florida Statutes, Section 61.30, which provides the statutory guidelines that are applied by the courts in establishing the amount of child support to be paid by each parent. In order to properly calculate child support it is important to know each parent's income, child care costs, non-covered medical and dental expenses, health insurance expenses, and the amount of overnights the child(ren) will spend with each parent. The method for calculating child support is outlined in the child support guidelines worksheet, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(e).

MEDIATION: Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties attempt to resolve their case before it proceeds to trial. Mediation may provide a cost-effective resolution to your case that allows you control over the final agreement. It is important to have an attorney present during mediation as most, if not all, of the issues of the case may be resolved with appropriate legal guidance.

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