If you never got married to the mother of your child, your whole relationship may have been somewhat informal. It may seem logical for your custody agreements to be informal as well.
You might agree to pay her a certain amount out of every paycheck that you receive and to take your child every other weekend, and for dinner on Wednesday nights. That might seem like an appropriate solution that keeps you involved with the child and gives the mom necessary support.
Unfortunately, making verbal arrangements when it comes to custody or parental time-sharing of a child in Florida can be a big mistake.
You can’t prove a verbal agreement in court
Although verbal agreements are enforceable in legal settings, proving you have a verbal agreement is all but impossible if the other party lies. Your entire position as father depends on the continued goodwill of your ex in this situation, which means access to your child could end without much notice.
If she won’t acknowledge your verbal agreement or claims that you set other terms, it will be your word against hers. She could deny you visitation, allege you aren’t the father of the child or even try to ask for child support despite the payments you’ve already made on your own.
If there are no written records of the terms that you agreed to, you only have access to your child and protection from child support enforcement efforts for as long as the mother chooses to cooperate with you. If she becomes angry or changes her mind, she could ask for formal child support or just refuse to let you see your kid.
Establish paternity so that you can ask for custody
The best way to protect yourself and the growing relationship with your child is by formally establishing paternity. You need to either have the mother acknowledge you on state documents or have the courts order paternity testing.
Once you have established paternity, you can then ask for either visitation or shared custody, called time-sharing in Florida. Knowing your rights as an unmarried father will make it easier for you to protect yourself in what can often be a vulnerable position.