Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Paternity

Father’s rights received a boost in Florida this year when the Florida Supreme Court issued a decision which clarified that biological fathers of children born in an intact marriage have the right to assert paternity. Before this ruling, the presumption that a child born to an intact marriage was the child of the husband of that marriage (even if not biologically related) defeated many biological father’s claims for paternity. Another recent case applies the new ruling to allow a biological father to pursue his parental rights over his twin children.

In the case J.H.S. v. Dept. of Children and Families, 2D17-5072 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018), dependency proceedings were initiated regarding twin babies based on an allegation that they were exposed to controlled substances at birth. At the time of the twins’ birth, the mother was married to a man not biologically related to the children. The biological father subsequently petitioned the dependency court for visitation with his children.

Upon learning the mother was married and that therefore her husband was the children’s legal father, the dependency court suspended the biological father’s visitation with the children and dismissed him from the case, ruling he had no standing because the children were born to an intact marriage. The mother and her husband showed no interest in raising the children while the father filed numerous case documents attempting to establish his parental rights. Eventually, the mother’s and legal father’s parental rights were terminated in the dependency proceeding.

The biological father obtained a final judgment of paternity in a separate paternity proceeding. He then brought the paternity judgment to the dependency court which still refused to recognize his parental rights and an appeal ensued. The appellate court agreed with the biological father, noting the dependency court was relying on old case law concerning a child born to an intact marriage. The appellate court held, “ Under these circumstances we cannot say that the delay in proceedings should preclude J.S.H. from having his day in court. We therefore reverse the order denying J.S.H.'s motion for joinder and remand for the court to conduct an evidentiary hearing on standing and such further proceedings as may be required.”

Parental rights are too precious to leave to chance. Make sure you have an experienced Florida child custody lawyer by your side as you fight to protect your right to be in your children’s lives. A consultation is the best place to start.