Spouses in Palm Beach County, Florida, and surrounding areas may be eager to get out of a bad marriage, but one question can leave you lingering in a miserable marriage for months, or even years: what about my kids? No one wants to subject their children to the pain of a divorce, but even worse is the risk of losing your relationship with your children altogether. You’re right to worry, since worry can spur you to make good decisions and hire a skilled lawyer. But the truth is that, unless you face some unusual circumstances, it’s highly unlikely you’ll lose your kids.

The Best Interests of the Child

Florida uses the best interest of the child standard, which means that there is no presumption in favor of either parent. Instead, it’s up to the judge to evaluate what is in the child’s best interest. The judge can evaluate a number of factors, including:

  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child
  • The emotional stability of each parent
  • The quality of environment offered by each parent
  • The relationship between the child and parent

In most cases, your previous relationship with your child will be what counts most. If you’re a loving, involved parent, you have very little to worry about. If you have a history of addiction, have behaved abusively, or have engaged in domestic violence, though, you very well could lose your children, particularly if the history is recent or you have not sought treatment. 

Joint Custody

Many judges start from a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child and reason backward from there. If both parents seem like equally good caregivers, then, it’s likely you’ll get some form of joint physical and legal custody. For instance, if mom has more time to spend with the kids but both parents are good caregivers, mom might get slightly more time, resulting in a 60/40 split. 

What About Bias?

Many parents are concerned about bias. Mothers may worry that outdated gender norms will cause them to be punished if they didn’t stay home with their kids or don’t act like “typical” moms. Dads worry that custody decisions are biased in favor of mothers and that, no matter what they do, they won’t get custody.

The truth is that bias is and can be a problem, but bias won’t decide your custody case. Judges have to act according to the law, rather than their personal opinions. But bias can affect how the judge reacts to you. For instance, if a judge thinks that working women aren’t good mothers, he may see your behavior through that lens. Working late is no longer a sign of your commitment to your children, but instead indication that you don’t care. Thus you’ll need to be prepared to address this bias with ample evidence and legal arguments in your favor. The judge can’t, though, deny you custody, and if he does, you can appeal the decision. So while bias can and does happen, the truth is that a good lawyer can prevent it from spinning out of control.