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Do Florida Courts Prefer Giving Primary Custody to the Mother?

Florida CourtsIf you’re a father considering divorce, you may be worried about being treated fairly when it comes to custody.

This is a very understandable fear and one Miami custody lawyers work hard to dispel.

Is There a Gender Bias in the Family Courts?

Many men approach divorce assuming the courts automatically lean toward awarding custody to the mother. The good news is that Florida courts don’t make custody decisions based on gender.

When you consider how courts determined custody in previous decades, however, it’s easy to see why fathers are often concerned about this issue.

For many years, courts in a majority of states, including Florida, gave primary custody to the mother in a divorce. The theory was that children – especially young children – thrived when placed with the mother rather than the father. The theory became so widespread, it eventually evolved into its own doctrine: the “tender years” doctrine.

According to the Florida Bar, the tender years doctrine resulted in mothers receiving custody in 90 percent of cases.

Over time, studies began to show that kids don’t actually do better when placed with mom. Rather, research showed that children fare best when allowed as much time and interaction as possible with both parents.

Florida Favors Frequent and Continuing Contact with Both Parents

In Florida, the tender years doctrine was officially replaced by Florida Statute 61.13(2)(b)(1), which explicitly states:

“It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate… 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.”

In short, the law clearly prohibits any sort of gender bias when it comes to custody and parenting time decisions. The law also makes it quite difficult for one parent to receive sole custody.

How Often Do Courts Give Majority Time-sharing to the Mother?

First, it’s worth noting that the Florida Statutes have done away with the term “custody” in favor of “time-sharing” and “parental responsibility”. Despite the changes in wording, it is still common to hear people refer to time-sharing as custody or parenting time.

In a dissolution of marriage, the mother and father can create a time-sharing schedule that works best for their family. The time-sharing schedule is incorporated into the parenting plan, which addresses other issues, such as child care arrangements, religious upbringing, education, and extracurricular activities.

Florida law may presume equal time-sharing is best, but many fathers still wonder just how often the courts follow this presumption.

Because every case is different, and time-sharing arrangements vary widely, it can be difficult to determine just how often courts award physical custody to the mother.

Also, certain factors can skew any analysis of custody decisions. For example, some children may prefer living with the mother. In other cases, a father’s job may require too much travel for him to have physical custody of the child.

At least one study has shown a steady erosion of any gender bias in family courts. According to a thorough analysis of child custody outcomes in Wisconsin between 1996 and 2007, the percentage of cases in which the courts awarded the mother sole custody declined from 60 percent to 45 percent.

Call a Miami Child Custody Lawyer Today

Whether you’re a mom or a dad, you deserve a fair outcome in your Florida child custody case. Call a Miami child custody lawyer today to discuss your goals and concerns.

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