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How do I start a custody case?

"Custody" in Florida Courts is known as "timesharing". Timesharing can be established in a Paternity Case, if the parents are not married, or a Divorce case, if the parents are married. This article focuses on the Paternity action process.

In Florida, when the parents of a child are unmarried, the mother is the natural custodian of the child. This means that the mother has "primary residential care and custody of the child unless the court enters an order stating otherwise"! Filing a paternity case is the ONLY way an unwed Father gains any enforceable rights to time with their child.


  1. Determine the Correct County for Filing: The law requires you to file your Paternity case where the child has lived for at least the last 6 months. Filing in the wrong county or state could cause your case to be dismissed.

  2. Obtain the Correct Forms for Filing: Florida Courts provide self-help forms to aide parents in the filing of their paternity cases. These forms are standard and may not address all of the issues in your case. Filing incorrectly could cause your case to be dismissed.

  3. File the Correct Forms with the Clerk of Court: Once your forms are complete, they need to be filed with the Clerk. You may file them in person or online via the e-filing website.

While starting your case is a straightforward process, we suggest that you consult with a local, experienced family law attorney to make sure you are preserving all of your rights. As stated above, mistakes on your forms could cause major issues in your case.

If you retain a qualified attorney, the lawyer will complete all of these steps for you and preserve all of your rights. Your lawyer will ensure that the process moves as efficiently as possible.


Lakeisha R. Simms, Attorney at Law is a law firm practicing primarily in the areas of family law, small business law, and wills & estate planning. We service clients in their businesses and in our offices located in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.

This is intended for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice or a substitute for hiring an attorney. Furthermore, by sharing this information, it is in no way intended to establish an attorney - client relationship with the reader.

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