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How Florida’s “Good Dad Act” helps unwed fathers and mothers

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2024 | Child Custody And Support

Last year, Florida took a step forward in making it easier for unwed fathers to secure and assert their parenting rights. The state legislature passed and the governor signed into law what’s known as “The Good Dad Act.”

Under the new law, when a man legally establishes paternity of his child, “the court must also determine parental responsibility and a parenting plan, and establish a timesharing schedule in addition to an order determining a child support.”

The law benefits unwed mothers as well. That’s because it makes it easier to hold fathers accountable for child support.

The law makes fathers “natural guardians”

Under the previous law, mothers were legally considered a child’s only “natural guardian” if a child’s parents were not married to one another. Therefore, the mother was the only parent with inherent legal rights unless the father went to court to get them.

The legislation that led to the law was championed by a man who heads the Biscayne Gardens Chamber of Commerce. He says his advocacy began after the mother of his child moved with their child  without notifying him, and he realized he had no parental rights even though the child’s birth certificate listed him as the father.

How the law benefits children

Now, with unwed fathers recognized as natural guardians of their children alongside mothers, and all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood being determined when paternity is established, fathers have a chance to be part of their children’s lives from the beginning. Codifying parental responsibility (also known as legal custody) and a timesharing schedule (physical custody) can also help children become used to having both parents in their lives, when appropriate.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that parents who are no longer together (or maybe never were) will agree on how to share responsibility, parenting time and child-rearing expenses. Having legal guidance can help either parent seek the agreements and parenting plan that are best for their child.