Recent Case Law on Biological Father’s Rights and Married Mothers

A couple signs a divorce decree with a gavel and two gold wedding bands sitting in front of them

It has been a long standing presumption in the State of Florida that a child born within the confines of an intact legal marriage, the father is presumed to be the husband of the mother of the child. Therefore, with such a presumption, the only individuals with standing to question the paternity of a child born during an intact marriage is the husband of the mother of the child. However, in a recent case released from the Florida Supreme Court, the court provided a biological father of a child born to a married mother with standing in court. This landmark case is Simmonds v. Perkins.

Within this case, the mother Treneka Simmonds gave birth to a baby girl. However, conflict arose as Simmonds was married to Shaquan Ferguson when she gave birth, however, she had been involved in a romantic relationship for 3 years with Connor Perkins, the biological father, of the baby. Perkins attended the birth of the child, Ferguson did not, and Simmonds gave her daughter Perkin’s last name on the birth certificate, and neglected to list a father’s name on the birth certificate. Mother and Perkins lived together and cared for the child as a family unit, with Perkins taking the child to doctor appointments, enrolling her in day care, paying child support outside of a court order, and the child referred to Perkin’s as “daddy.”

Perkins, then sought to establish formal parental rights through a court ordered timesharing and child support order. Simmonds and Ferguson, the husband, objected on the grounds that Perkins lacked standing, as the child was born during an intact marriage, and under Florida presumption, Ferguson is the legal father of the child. The trial court noted the biological ties and significant involvement of Perkins in the child’s life and further declared that it was in the best interest of the child to maintain contact with Perkins, but they refused to override the long standing presumption because existing case law provided Perkins with “no right to establish paternity of a child who was born into an intact marriage.” 247 So.3d 397 (2018). Therefore, Perkins appealed, and the case to Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. The Fourth District reversed the trial court and held, “the presumption of legitimacy afforded to a child born within an intact marriage is exactly that: a presumption.” 247 So.3d 397 (2018). This provided Perkins with an avenue to overcome this presumption. Finally, the case made its way to the highest court in Florida, The Supreme Court.

Florida’s Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Fourth District. Although the presumption of a child’s father being the husband of the mother, used to be treated as irrebuttable unless questioned by the husband, the Supreme Court allowed this to become a rebuttable presumption for biological fathers as well. However, this rebuttable presumption is limited to circumstances where the biological father has shown “substantial and continuing concern for the child’s welfare.” 247 So.3d 397 (2018). Therefore, the long standing irrebuttable presumption and lack of standing for biological fathers finds itself with significant changes and avenues for biological fathers to obtain their legal rights to a child.

If you are seeking to establish the paternity of a child, contact an experienced paternity lawyer to discuss your standing and options of pursuing legal parental rights over your child.

Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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