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Child custody decisions favored mothers or fathers at various times in history. Today, gender is not a factor in determining what’s in the child’s best interests. Fathers have just as much right as mothers to seek custody of their children.

When custody decisions go before a Florida judge, they are guided by law on the factors to consider when deciding how to award custody of minor children.

Child Custody Presumptions in History

When the colonists arrived at present-day United States, they followed English common law. Divorce was extremely rare, and fathers were always granted custody in these cases. Women had few individual rights. They had no right to seek custody.

This custody presumption given to fathers continued for several centuries. Once again, the law in England impacted what happened across the pond. Caroline Norton, a high-profile society hostess and writer, and her husband divorced. He was awarded custody of their children. This led Caroline to lobby British Parliament until it passed the Custody of Infants Act of 1839. The Act gave mothers the right to seek custody of children younger than 7. The right was expanded to children younger than 17 in 1873.

Beginning around the turn of the 20th century, mothers were granted custody more often. As the decades passed, mothers assumed custody presumptions, referred to as the Tender Years Doctrine. Fathers began pushing back in the 1960s. A ruling by a New York family court judge was the beginning of the end for the Tender Years Doctrine. She said the presumption given to mothers in custody cases violated the father’s right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Today, state law no longer uses gender as a deciding factor in custody determinations.

Factors Impacting Child Custody in Florida

Florida statutes do not directly address “custody.” Instead, the laws refer to parental responsibility, parenting plans, and time-sharing schedule arrangements. The state typically orders child-care responsibilities to be shared by both parents.

The law states “there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.”

A judge must consider many factors, including the following:

  • Each parent’s ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, honor the time-sharing schedule, and be reasonable when changes are required.
  • The extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
  • The ability of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to their own needs or desires.
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  • The needs of school-age children and how much time they will have to travel to meet the provisions of the parenting plan.
  • The moral fitness of the parents.
  • The mental and physical health of the parents.
  • The home, school, and community records of the child.
  • Preference of the child, if the court believes they have such maturity to express an opinion.
  • The ability of each parent to remain informed of circumstances through the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a consistent routine for the child.
  • The willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
  • Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
  • The specific parenting duties typically performed by each parent.
  • Each parent’s ability to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
  • The developmental stages and needs of the child and each parent’s ability to meet those needs.

The judge can also assess any other factor deemed relevant to the parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

Legal Guidance for All Parenting-Plan Provisions

The many details of a parenting plan can be overwhelming – even for parents who remain friendly. Our attorneys at Mitchell & West LLC approach each custody case with compassion and determination. Every parent has strong opinions regarding what is best for their children. Our objective is to reach an outcome that is good for the child and works for the parents.

Schedule a consultation to learn more about your custody rights. Reach us online or call (305) 783-3301.