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Do Florida Courts Favor Mothers When Awarding Child Custody?
If you are considering a child custody case but are worried about a mother’s rights in Florida, you might be reluctant to move forward. You might wonder whether Florida courts favor mothers when awarding child custody.
An experienced child custody lawyer from McMichen, Cinami & Demps can explain your rights and help you throughout the entire process. Until then, read on for further information.
Is Florida a Mother State?
Florida is not, in fact, a mother state. Courts in the state consider many factors when deciding in custody battles involving mother vs. father. However, based on current laws and historical processes, a mother’s custody rights in Florida are the same as a father’s.
The Tender Years Doctrine
One of the reasons why fathers in Florida may be reluctant to pursue child custody is because they think a mother’s rights may be superior to their own. In fact, it was not too long ago that this was the case, as many states, including Florida, used the tender years doctrine when determining child custody awards.
Under the tender years doctrine, courts awarded custody of young children more often to mothers than fathers because they believed that young children or “tender years” needed to stay with their primary caregiver. Historically, this was the mother. This led to mothers almost always receiving child custody.
The Frequent and Continuing Contact Doctrine
The tender years doctrine is no longer the prevailing law in Florida. Instead, current law says that it is the public policy of Florida for minor children to have “frequent and continuing contact” with both parents after their parents have separated or divorced. This change was made in recognition that children benefit from having frequent time with both parents, rather than spending most of their time with one parent and very little with the other.
The current law states there is no presumption for or against either parent based on their gender when awarding or modifying child custody. The law also states that parental responsibility for a minor child should be shared with both parents unless the court finds it detrimental. Some examples the court gives that may show that awarding shared parental responsibility include:
The parent has been convicted of domestic violence that is at least a first-degree misdemeanor
A parent has been convicted of certain sexual offenses involving a minor when they were an adult
These are rebuttable presumptions, so they can be overcome with strong evidence.
Factors Florida Courts Consider When Awarding Child Custody
Florida courts must make child custody decisions in the child’s best interests. The court can determine what is in the child’s best interests by evaluating all factors that affect the welfare and interests of the child, which may include:
The length of time the child has lived in a stable environment
The preference to maintain the child’s continuity in their current environment
The anticipated parental responsibilities, including those that will be delegated to others
The historical parental responsibilities of each parent
The proximity of each parent to the child
The parents’ moral fitness
The mental and physical health of each parent
The child’s developmental needs and the ability of the parents to meet them
The child’s home, school, and community record
The child’s reasonable preferences if the court finds they intelligent, understanding, and experienced enough to express a preference
The parent’s demonstrated ability and willingness to determine, consider, and act in the child’s best interests as opposed to their own