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How a Mother Can Get Full Custody of Their Child in Florida
There was a time when mothers received preference in child custody, especially in cases involving younger children. It was assumed that mothers were the primary caregivers, so the children should remain with their mothers. However, that is not the case any longer.
Judges in Florida view parents as equals when they enter the court regarding a custody matter. If one parent alleges that he or she should have full custody of the children, that parent has the burden of proving why full custody is in the best interest of the children.
How is Custody Determined in Florida?
Most states define custody as legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the authority to make decisions for your child, including matters related to education, health care, religion, and activities. Physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with as the child’s primary residence.
Florida abandoned the traditional terms of custody in favor of parental responsibility and time-sharing. Florida’s custody laws favor both parents remaining active in their children’s lives. Therefore, courts prefer to see parenting plans and time-sharing plans that provide equal access for the child with each parent.
Parental responsibility replaced legal custody. Parents often share parental responsibility so that each parent has an equal say in the major decisions impacting their children’s lives.
Time-sharing replaced physical custody and visitation. The time-sharing plan sets forth when the child will be with each parent. Ideally, the courts like to see plans that provide equal time with each parent, but that may not always be possible given the parents’ circumstances.
If the parents cannot agree on a parenting and time-sharing plan, the court can order a plan based on the child’s best interest. Even though the parents may agree to a plan, the court will always review the plan to ensure that the terms of the plan are in the child’s best interest.
When Does the Court Grant Sole Custody to a Parent?
A judge may grant sole parental responsibility to one parent in certain circumstances. The mother might receive sole custody if she can prove:
The father has a drug or alcohol abuse problem that impairs his ability to care for the child
The father is an established flight risk with the child
There are allegations of neglect by the father
The father has not been a part of the child’s life until very recently
The father cannot provide a safe, stable home for the child
Depending on the situation and the facts in the case, the court may give the mother sole physical custody of the child as well. The court could order supervised visitation with the father or limited visitation depending on the circumstances. If there is no risk of harm, the court could grant the father liberal visitation even though the mother has sole parental responsibility.
It is important to remember that the courts favor plans that provide joint custody. The mother must provide convincing evidence to the court that it is in the child’s best interest for the father not to have any say in how his child is being raised. Mothers who want to seek sole custody might want to find an experienced custody attorney as soon as possible to begin preparing a case.
Are There Things a Mother Can Do to Increase the Chance of Receiving Full Custody?
Hiring a child custody lawyer who has extensive experience handling contested custody matters is the best step a mother can take to prepare for a custody battle. However, there are other steps a mother can take when preparing to battle for full custody:
Spend as much time with your child as possible
Keep detailed notes about how much time your child spends with his or her father
Design a work schedule that allows you to be at home when your child is not in school
Make sure that you are involved in all decisions regarding your child’s education, health care, and other matters
Demonstrate good parenting skills, such as helping with homework, using appropriate discipline, and providing adequate supervision
Make notes about activities and appointments that your child’s father misses
Ensure that your home is suitable, safe, and clean
Never discuss your child’s other parent in front of or with your child