Let’s start by dispelling one of the greatest myths surrounding child custody – the mother is given an edge over the father in custody proceedings. This is not true in most cases since the US jurisdiction provides a verdict in “the best interests of the child.”
So, the child’s safety and welfare will trump either parent’s desires. If you’re currently going through a divorce or fighting for the custody of a child born outside of marriage, the US court does grant certain legal rights to the mother. However, remember that the jurisdiction will differ depending on whether or not the child was born out of wedlock.
This article dives into the depths of legal rights granted to a child’s mother as per US family law.
For a Child Born to Married Parents
One of the first factors the court considers is the maternity or paternity assumption. In the past, mothers did have a certain edge over fathers since they were the primary caretakers of their children.
But since gender roles have changed drastically over the years, most custody proceedings are based on a gender-neutral approach. The court examines certain things to ensure the verdict is given with the child’s highest interest in mind.
Some of the top focus factors would include –
- The child’s emotional and physical well-being
- Each parent’s financial stability
- The strength of the bond each parent shares with the child
- If a parent has not paid for child support
- The willingness each parent shows in taking care of the child
- In case of appropriate age, the child’s preference in the matter
- Any evidence of abuse, domestic or emotional
To present a strong case, it is best to rely on an experienced and reputed family law attorney. Here, it’s important to remember that the procedure is the same in the case of adoptive parents. This is because adoption establishes a legal relationship between the parent and child.
What Legal Rights Does Child Custody Grant?
Before we delve deeper, it’s essential to understand the difference between legal and physical custody. While the latter grants to fundamental, daily parenting decisions, the former refers to important life decisions such as the child’s healthcare, religion, education, etc.
If the mother is given the child’s legal custody, she will have all rights to take important decisions surrounding the child’s welfare, such as –
- The right to choose the place where the child is to live
- The right to select the child’s educational institution
- The right to take crucial medical decisions regarding the child’s health and well-being
- The right to choose who gets to see the child and for what duration
- The right to choose extracurricular activities of the child such as travel, etc.
- The right to decide the child’s religious affiliation
- The right to accept benefits for the child, such as food assistance
Note – This family law mainly applies to heterosexual relationships. In the case of same-sex marriages, the laws are still pretty obscure.
Can a Court Verdict be Modified?
Once the court gives its verdict, it is in both parents’ highest interest to maintain cordial relations. Failing to do so may lead to a reduction in the granted physical custody or (depending on the severity of the circumstances) a change in the order.
The court will change its order on child custody after examining the following conditions –
- If either of the parents is found violating the existing court order
- If evidence of domestic or emotional abuse and violence is presented
- If one of the parents is unable to meet the child’s needs
- If the needs of the child have changed
- If it is found that the existing order is not in the child’s highest interest
Modification to an existing court order regarding child custody family law becomes easier if both parents are willing to cooperate with the proposed changes.
For a Child Born out of Wedlock
If the child is born out of wedlock, custody is automatically granted to the mother. In this case, it can be said that the unwed mother does have the edge over the father in custody proceedings.
However, suppose the evidence is provided that the mother is incapable of caring for the child or does not have their best interest in mind. In that case, the biological father gets legal custody of the child.
Does the Mother Have the Right to Prevent the Father from Seeing His Child?
Yes and no. Meaning, though the mother can prevent the father from seeing the child, she cannot do so without a valid reason.
She must prove before the court that the father does not have the child’s best interest in mind or is unfit to be a good parent. A child protection order can be issued against the father if a history of violence or abuse is involved.
In any case, the child’s father cannot be denied visitation rights without court intervention.
Your Best Chance at Winning a Child Custody Case
This article must have cleared up doubts surrounding whether the US court prefers mothers over fathers in child custody proceedings. If you wish to pursue your child’s custody, get in touch with the best family law attorney in the area.
You can connect with people in your family and friend circle or run an online search for an experieced “family law attorney near me.” A reliable attorney will not only educate you thoroughly on your legal rights but will also assist with building your case, preparing for hearings, etc.