New law makes it easier for unwed Florida fathers to gain custody rights

Closeup Of Baby Holding Man's Finger
Unmarried dads are getting an easier route to formalize the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood.

Just in time for Father’s Day, a measure that makes it easier for men with children born out of wedlock to be legally known as the child’s parent — with all the rights and responsibilities — is now law.

The bipartisan proposal (HB 775) Gov. Ron DeSantis signed makes it so that going to court and establishing paternity is no longer required to earn the title “father,” with custody rights along with support obligations for those who are not married.

Instead, the legislation Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Christopher Benjamin filed makes it so that a man gets custody rights if both mother and father sign a voluntary acknowledgement of his paternity. A court could then bestow on both equal say in their child’s education, health care, religion, time sharing and safety, among other things.

“When that father does that step-up, he now becomes a natural guardian of the child,” Benjamin said. “The unwed mother and father are the natural guardians of that child born out of wedlock, and all the rights of parenthood are conveyed on them both.”

Under current state law, until July 1, if a child is born to unmarried parents, the rights of natural guardianship defaults to the mother, who becomes responsible for all issues involving the child unless a court decides otherwise.

No longer will a father need to file a petition in court to have official, legal parental responsibility and time sharing if both parents acknowledge a man is the biological father.

Republican Sen. Clay Yarborough of Jacksonville, who carried the measure in the Senate, called it a “a good, father-friendly bill (that) is good for Florida’s families.”

It also earned the endorsement of the Florida Bar Family Law Section, which helped Benjamin craft bill language, and Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley, who described it as a needed step to address the “difficulty it sometimes takes to bring” unwed parents together for the benefit of their offspring.

“The brokenness of families and loss of fatherhood in many of these situations and the (overburden) on mothers who have to do all the parenting,” he said, “(leads) to shortcomings.”


Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • JuliaLarry

    June 9, 2023 at 3:50 pm

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  • Dont Say FLA

    June 9, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    Why do they have to be unwed to do this? Married guys might want to do this, or they might not want to do this. Married guys married some chick, not some baby the chick decided to have, and there’s guarantee any belongs to its mama’s husband, so why force father status on married guys? There’s more than enough penalties already for guys who get married. Automatic father status to a baby that falls out the wife? That just ain’t right.

    • FL LOVER

      June 9, 2023 at 6:43 pm

      Due to “unwed” moms making it hard for the father to see their child when they are trying to do the right thing, that’s where this law is coming from. I am in a similar situation with my fiancé and his baby mama, this is a great law for fathers like him who work hard and only want to be in their daughter/sons life. Don’t take it personal about the “marriage” thing, I have seen so many single fathers try to get their child and they had to fight in court to get rights or custody of that child. Yes I support this 100% thank you FL I love it here!!!

      • Dont Say FLA

        June 10, 2023 at 10:09 am

        No, I get it. I just don’t know what married men can’t have the same opportunity. There’s so many marriage penalties already.

        • Dont Say FLA

          June 10, 2023 at 10:19 am

          OH – I’ve realized why this seems strangely unfair.

          Rhonda is against birthright citizenship status for people born in the USA, but he’s perfectly happy with birthright fatherhood being forced onto men just because they are married, but Rhonda is allowing opt-in fatherhood legal status for men who aren’t married.

          Fatherhood legal status should be opt-in for married men just like it is for unmarried men. There’s no reason a marriage contract should automatically extend itself to new humans. That’s not a clause found anywhere in the marriage contract, but it’s a legal status forced onto married men unfairly while unmarried men get a choice.

          I can only assume the man that abused Rhonda when he was a little boy must have been a married man since as Governor he keeps punishing married men.

    • Long Shank

      June 10, 2023 at 10:32 pm

      You are an idiot. I just saw the movie Idiocracy, you are the star of that show. Moron.

Comments are closed.


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