What will the judge consider during your hearing?

From Floridians for Reproductive Freedom

There are three different reasons a judge will decide to give a judicial bypass. You have to prove at least one of those three reasons. If more than one applies to you then you should explain each reason that applies. The three reasons are:

  1. That you are mature enough
  • To prove that you are sufficiently mature to decide to terminate your pregnancy, you will need to show this by “clear and convincing evidence.” This means that it has to be substantially more likely than not that you are mature enough to make this decision on your own.
  • To determine that you are sufficiently mature to make this decision on your own, Florida law requires the judge to consider your:
    • age
    • overall intelligence
    • emotional development and stability
    • believability and how you act
    • ability to accept responsibility
    • ability to consider both immediate and long-term consequences of having an abortion
    • ability to understand and explain the medical risks of terminating your pregnancy, and ability to apply that understanding to your decision.
  • The law requires the judge to decide that there is no “undue influence” by another on your decision to have an abortion. Undue influence refers to another person forcing you to make this decision if this is not the decision that you want to make.
    • For example, if a boyfriend, friend, or another person is trying to convince you to have an abortion when it is not truly what you want to do, the Judge will consider this when deciding whether to grant or deny your request for the judicial waiver.
  • To help prove to the judge that you are mature enough to choose to end your pregnancy without involving a parent, you should provide the judge with information about being in school, community involvement, job experience, and concrete plans for the future, like plans to attend college or pursue a certain career or vocational path. 
  • The Judge may ask if you have spoken to other trusted adults about your decision. Judges typically look favorably at minors who have a support system that has helped them come to this decision, people who they could rely on if there are any medical or mental complications after the abortion, whether it is another family member, an adult friend, or a counselor. 
  • A judge may also want to see that you have met with a doctor and know about the procedure and the risks of having the procedure.
  • Sometimes judges decide that a minor is not mature enough to decide to have an abortion without involving a parent. This has happened when the minor was unable to demonstrate:
    • any knowledge regarding specific immediate or long-term physical, emotional, or psychological risks of having an abortion,
    • evidence that they had sought advice or emotional support from any adult,
    • what she would do should any physical or emotional complications arise from abortion,
    • knowledge of what the abortion experience is like or potential complications.

2. That it is in your best interest

  • If you are trying to prove that involving a parent (or legal guardian) about your pregnancy is not in your best interest, you will have to prove this to the judge using clear and convincing evidence. Clear and convincing evidence means that you will have to prove that it is substantially more likely than not that it is not in your best interest to involve your parent or guardian.
  • Florida courts do not consider fear of involving a parent to be enough of a reason to find that you need a judicial waiver of the notice requirement. Having a general fear that a parent will not understand abortion or be upset about your pregnancy is usually not enough to establish that it is in your best interest not to involve your parent or guardian. 
  • Several Florida courts have based their decision to determine that a judicial waiver is in the minor’s best interest by considering the following factors: 
    • the minor’s emotional or physical needs; 
    • the possibility of intimidation, other emotional injury, or physical danger to the minor; 
    • the stability of the minor’s home and the possibility that notification would cause serious and lasting harm to the family structure; 
    • the relationship between the parents and the minor and the effect of notification on that relationship, and 
    • the possibility that notification may lead the parents to withdraw emotional support

3. That you are a victim of abuse

  • If you are trying to prove that you were abused by a parent or guardian, you will need to prove this to the judge by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means the judge needs to hear that it is more likely than not that you suffered this abuse. It may be hard to tell the judge exactly what the abuse was, but it is important for you to tell the truth and provide the judge with specific details so that he/she can understand why you want to terminate your pregnancy. 
  • Note that if the court finds evidence of child abuse or sexual abuse by any person, the court is obligated under law to report the evidence of child abuse or sexual abuse. 
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