Infant Custody Arrangements in Florida Divorce
Child custody cases are hard enough for parents to cope with, but when the child in question is an infant, coming up with a reasonable and fair custody arrangement is extra trying. Early bonding is essential in building a parent-child relationship, and if one parent gets less time with the infant than the other, it could negatively affect that parent’s future relationship with the child. At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, our Boca Raton child custody lawyers aim to help parents develop an infant custody arrangement that is safe and healthy for the baby, but that also allows each parent the time they need to form and maintain an attachment with their newborn.
Florida’s Best Interests Standard
All 50 states have a “best interests standard,” which judges use to determine how custody should be split between two parents. Florida’s best interest policy can be found under Florida Statute 61.13, Subsection 2.4(c), and explicitly states, “The court shall determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child.” It goes into further detail about what is considered to be in a child’s best interest, which includes frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Furthermore, the subsections of this statute express the state’s wish for each parent to share in the parental responsibility of a child unless shared parental responsibility is detrimental to the wellbeing of the child in any way.
Furthermore, the Florida courts are not opposed to granting sole custody to one parent, with or without time-sharing, if they feel that such an arrangement is in the best interests of the child. A factor that the courts weigh heavily when dealing with the custody arrangements of an infant can be found under Florida Statute, Section 2(a), Subsection 4.3(s). This subsection of the law explains that a judge will consider “the developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs” when coming up with a final custody agreement.
For instance, if a mother chooses to breastfeed her infant – which is something that a father cannot do – the courts may determine that the father is unable to meet the child’s developmental needs at the current stage of his or her life. Additionally, if the mother is allotted an extended period of time for maternity leave, but the father must return to work within a week of the child’s birth, the courts may find that living with the mother is in the best interests at the time, as the mother has the capacity to stay home and care for the child, whereas the father does not.
Tender Years Doctrine
Once upon a time, Florida used to adhere to the Tender Years Doctrine, which was a legal principle that presumed that children – especially those in their “tender years,” such as infants – should be placed in the sole custody of their mothers. While Florida and most other states in the union have done away with the Tender Years Doctrine, many states continue to show bias towards a mother—especially in custody cases involving babies.
However, if you are a father and you can prove that you can continue to provide competent care for the infant—including keeping up with an infant’s every two to three hour feeding schedule of breast milk (which the mother must pump)—the courts may determine that shared parenting is a reasonable arrangement.
Consult a Boca Raton Child Custody Attorney
At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, our Boca Raton family law attorneys understand that timesharing your child is one of the most difficult aspects of divorce. When an infant is involved, it is even more difficult, as it is during infancy that the basis for a parent-child relationship is forged, and that attachments are made. We can help you; call our office today at 561-391-9943 to schedule a private consultation.