Whether you are in the process of getting a divorce, or you had a child with a partner with whom you were not married and are no longer with, you may be wondering what your rights will be in regards to custody as the mother.
While it was once assumed that the mother would be granted full custody of their children in the event of separation or divorce, this is not always the case anymore. Many judges prefer to have both parents involved in the raising of children, and they will favor granting joint custody if possible.
However, this does not necessarily mean that you can’t be granted full custody of your children. If you are a mother looking to gain full custody of her children in Florida, here are a few things that you should consider.
Is Paternity Established?
The first thing that you need to know as a mother seeking full custody of her children in Florida is that paternity establishment plays a key role in whether a father has rights. While a husband will automatically be assumed to be a child’s father and will usually be granted automatic paternity rights, this is not the case for fathers of children born outside of marriage. If you had a child with a partner with whom you were not married and you are no longer together, you as the mother will be considered the natural guardian under Florida law and will automatically be given full legal custody of the child.
Even if the father’s name is on the birth certificate, this does not automatically grant the father rights in Florida, as paternity generally needs to be established before an unmarried father receives rights in Florida. In fact, as an unwed mother, you are under no obligation to even offer visitation to the father if paternity has not been established.
Be Prepared to Go to Court
Alternatively, if you and the father of your child(ren) are going through a divorce, or you are an unwed mother and the father has established paternity, it will require more work for you to gain full custody. In fact, you will likely have to go to court to determine custody. In some cases, the father might be willing to grant you full custody if you ask, as many will consider it best for children to remain with their mother. However, if you and the father cannot agree on custody, you will have to present your case to the court as to why you should have full custody. Make sure to prepare a parenting plan outlining your plans for taking care of your child(ren), why you think you should have full custody, and what your plan is for your child’s future.
Consider The Child’s Best Interests
When preparing to go to court, it is important to consider what is in your child’s best interests. Considering that the courts often prefer to grant joint custody, you will need to be prepared to argue why the father should not have custody of his children, including why you believe it is in their best interests to stay with you as the mother. Common reasons for one parent to be granted full custody of a child is if there is evidence of child or spousal abuse, if there have been issues of substance abuse, or if the other parent is unable to care for their children financially and/or emotionally. It is important that you outline your arguments ahead of time so that you look collected and prepared. If you appear overly emotional or unprepared for your court appearance, this can negatively impact your chances of receiving full custody.
As a mother, it is understandable to want what is best for your children, and you may believe that having full custody of your children is what is best for them. However, unless the father has consented to let you have full custody, you may want to consult an attorney to help you outline your options as you move forward with your custody case. Contact us to learn more about your custody rights after a divorce or separation.