Custody, Infants, Breastfeeding & the Tender Years Doctrine

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Monday, December 16, 2013.

How are child custody cases handled for babies still breastfeeding? Florida used to follow the “tender years” doctrine which held: mothers of infants of tender years are best fitted to bestow motherly affection, care, companionship, and early training. Florida abolished the “tender years” doctrine. But it’s interesting to see countries going through the modernization of their custody laws.

In Israel for instance, the current law automatically grants custody of children under 6 to the mother unless there are special reasons not to.

For practical purposes, this meant mothers always got custody because after age six, custody was never reconsidered, so as not to disturb the lifestyle to which the children had grown accustomed.

As the Jerusalem Post reports:

Since the Schnitt Committee recommended eliminating the tender years clause altogether in 2008, judges already started granting joint custody for children under six.

The bill recommends declaring both parents legally responsible for their children and guarantees the rights of the children to a relationship with both their parents.

With infants who are breastfeeding, there are a few solutions. The mother could pump and provide enough breast milk to get through the timesharing.

If pumping is not the solution, you may have to consult experts to resolve the conflict over whether the public recognition of the health benefits of breastfeeding is best for the child, and if so, does it outweigh the benefits of early father-child bonding.

This is not a slam dunk case for either party. Although the public health benefits of breastfeeding are real, there is a good chance that all of the lawyers and the judge deciding your case were themselves formula fed with no long term harmful consequences.